Find out how networking can help develop your career thinking and provide job and work experience opportunities.
What is networking?
Networking is talking to the people you know, or reaching out to people who work in careers you’d like to get in to, so you can:
- find out about what a particular career or sector is like, routes in and what experience you might need
- research specific employers, find out about the work culture and what it’s like to work there
- find work experience/internship or job opportunities.
How to build your network
Start by thinking about who you might know already. Your contacts might come from:
- friends, family, neighbours, friends of family or family of friends
- tutors, fellow students and Sussex alumni
- work/volunteering colleagues (current or previous).
Try asking your current contacts whether they know anyone working in the career area which interests you. If so, ask if they can introduce you.
Online networks can be great for information-seeking and making new contacts in areas you want to find out more about.
- join Sussex Connect, a members-only site for former and current Sussex students to connect for mentoring and networking (advice given is not moderated by the university)
- join Linkedin and Twitter and network with individuals or organisations.
You can also find existing professional networks on social media. Start by following and viewing interactions, and join in when you feel confident or have a relevant question.
You can also find out about searching for jobs using social media.
How to contact people
This is the part of the process which many people feel anxious about. But don’t worry – with the right preparation, you can make it easier and improve your chances of success. Make sure you have an introduction and opening question worked out in advance (whether you are making contact online or in person). This should cover who you are, what you want and end on a question.
Make it brief. You are not applying for a job, so you don’t need to go into your skills and motivation in any depth.
Think about something like:
‘I’m studying journalism at Sussex and would like to know more about the news industry/sector. How did you get started? Can you give me any advice on routes in?
What to ask
Once you have made contact, the next step might be to arrange an information interview. This is where you can dig a bit deeper and find out more.
- make it clear you are information-seeking not job-seeking – it takes the pressure off both of you
- ask for 10-15 minutes of their time
- use telephone, Skype/Zoom or even email
- do some research – don’t ask basic questions that could be answered by the company website.
Your questions might cover:
- the role: a typical week, main activities, priorities, skills used, working conditions
- career progression: how is the sector changing, what does this role lead to, information about career path
- getting in: how they got into the role, is it different now, are there stepping stones to getting in, where are vacancies advertised
- tips about how to approach employers and what style of CV to use.
Keep in touch
Once you’ve had an information interview, write an email to thank them. You could also remind them of anything they said they would do in your meeting, and reiterate your interests and skills.
It is also good to keep in touch every few months, to update people on how you are doing. You can also ask for advice occasionally. In this way you can develop a mentoring relationship, whereby they are invested in your future, too. Keep them posted when you get an interview or find a job.
One of the important things to remember about networking is that it’s not a one-way street. It’s about building relationships and nurturing them.