University Career Center

Networking is about building relationships and getting to know people in positions and career areas of interest have always been an important job/internship strategy. Some networking conversations will happen in-person, over the phone, or online through platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. 

Want an easy way to get started? Connect with Wolverine alumni!

  • University Career Alumni Network (UCAN): This UCC resource is an EASY way to connect with alumni who have volunteered to offer career expertise. Gain valuable insights about different industries, day-to-day responsibilities, career preparation, and job/internship search tips and tips on applying to professional schools.  
    • Will this be your first time reaching out to a professional? Here’s one student’s UCAN experience.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is another great tool – one you can use to showcase yourself and your career interests. Having a strong profile will benefit you when recruiters are seeking candidates for their open positions. Incorporate tips like, indicating in your Headline the position you are seeking right now. Be creative (and flexible) stating that you may be open to part-time work, if you are willing to relocate, or are available to do contract work on the side
    • Find out more on building strong profiles.
    • With a strong LinkedIn profile, you are ready to reach out to professionals by industry, location, and University of Michigan. Building your network starts now!
  • Virtual Networking Events: Virtual is the name of the game! Employers are seeking new ways of engaging students interested in their opportunities. There are virtual information sessions, networking hours, and virtual ‘coffee chats’ all planned with you in mind. Set reminders to check out the “Events Page” on Handshake each week for the latest additions. Want to stand out at virtual events? Check this Forbes article on making the most of virtual networking events.
  • Many students already have large social networks on Facebook. Use a tool like JIBEIdentified, or BranchOut in order to visualize your own network.
  • How Twitter Got Shannon Her First Job

Use the following resources to become an expert at "networking":


OVERVIEW

When you hear “You should be networking...” do you recoil and think:

  • I don’t like 'Shmoozing'
  • I have to know someone and I don’t
  • I am not an extrovert
  • Add your excuse for not doing this very important job search activity HERE

Let us reintroduce you this vital piece of your job search and rename it: Networking is Building Community

It is a way to build a community of professionals that you know. The good news is that you do know people and we can help you figure out how to find more people. Building a professional community can help you in the following ways:

  • Career definition. Networking helps you to get to know who you are professionally and how your story connects to their work.
  • Find the hidden job market. Did you know most jobs (about 80%) are not found from job postings? Many people know about potential openings that either have not been posted yet or have been posted in a place you did not look.
  • Practice your interviewing skills. You can do this by talking to a professional about your professional interests without the pressure of a job interview.

Informational graphic about Informational Interviews


PREPARE YOUR "PRESENTATION"

Getting Started: Prepare Your Presentation

  • Develop a quick way (we’re talking 30 seconds here) to introduce yourself to someone. This is often called an Elevator Speech, or a 30-second commercial of who you are and what you'd like to do professionally. Your story should tell a logical path of your past experiences, including why you did them, culminating in why you reached out to the person.

  • Have business cards made to share with a contact. Did you know students can order FREE business cards from the Alumni Association?

  • Prepare a resume to share with the professionals you contact to provide background information and to get their advice. Here's some of our own tips about resumes.

  • Make a list of questions that you want to ask a professional contact. You should plan to conduct the conversation when you meet or talk with a networking contact -- you are interviewing them for information about what they do and insights they may have to their job or profession.  See the Informational Interview questions to help you get started.   Here's our own list to get you started.


POLISH & MAINTAIN YOUR DIGITAL PRESENCE

As employers and graduate schools are looking for ways to get to know candidates virtually, your online “brand” is going to take on even more significance.  You need to consider ways to stand out that are beyond what you may have done when “in-person” connections were more the norm. 

You have a story, tell it:

Manage your online presence: What you tweet or post publicly is part of your professional image, whether or not you intend it to be. Be mindful of your privacy settings and/or consider the audiences that can see your posts before you publish.  Bottomline, make sure your content is suitable for future recruiters to review.

Update on LinkedIn.  If you currently consider your LinkedIn profile to have “the basics” now is the time to develop an effective profile and get active.  Recruiters want to see what you have been involved with, what matters to you, who you follow, and what you are interested in.  Watch this Learning LinkedIn Video for Students to uncover everything you need to know from creating a profile to growing your network, to following influencers, and sharing content. (LinkedIn account linked to your umich email is required).

Get active on social media.  It may be time to move from a strictly social network to career-related networks. Leverage social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to highlight and build upon your industry expertise. Incorporate your professional brand into your bio by using hashtags related to your interest areas, following leaders in your field, and retweeting top industry stories. This serves the dual purpose of also keeping up with trends in fields that interest you!

Create a blog and/or website. Remember, employers are looking, online, for additional ways to learn about applicants since they are unable to meet you in person.  Blogs or websites are a great way to showcase your personality, skills, interests, and other important qualities. Find out why this matters to recruiters and check out the following (free!) tools for creating sites: WixSquarespace, or Wordpress.

Maintain your profiles: As you gain more experience, education, and skills, your profiles should change! Revisit your Handshake, LinkedIn, and social media profiles, and update, update, update!


IDENTIFY PEOPLE TO BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY

Consider who you may already know:

  • List names of current and former colleagues, acquaintances from professional/campus organizations, and the business associates of family and friends.
  • Don’t forgot your personal network—neighbors, relatives, organizations, religious or community groups, clubs, or volunteer groups. Look to all generations for building a professional community.
  • Fill in the gaps by reconnecting with old acquaintances, getting involved in the committees of your favorite organization, or volunteering.
  • And don't forget U-M alumni! University Career Alumni Network (UCAN ): Michigan’s vast alumni connection platform is always a great resource for students. Gain valuable insights about industries of interest and where to find opportunities. You can also learn about career preparation and job/internship search tips, about a job’s day-to-day responsibilities, and tips on applying to professional schools.  Stay on track with some great advice and input from a fellow Wolverine using UCAN.

MAKE CONTACT

Tips on Making Contact

  • Build rapport by contacting people and conducting informational interviews. Learn about them and what they do.
  • Seek advice, not a job. Draw out stories about your contacts’ professional experiences. They will enjoy this and you will learn from it.
  • Share your resume and gain advice from them about job seeking in their field.
  • Give them an idea of your interests and skills to make it easy for them to make job connections for you.
  • Stay in touch regularly and make your conversations ongoing, which might include sharing information, social meeting over coffee, or asking job questions online.

Sample e-mail requesting an information interview over the phone:

To:         Sarah Smith <SSmith@annarbor.org>
From:        Ima Wolverine <Ima.wolverine@umich.edu>
Subject:        UMICH Student -Informational Interview Request 

Dear Ms. Smith:

I am a sophomore majoring in ____________at University of Michigan and received your contact information through Alumni Group on LinkedIn. 

I am interested in learning about career paths in the field of __________ and what skills I might need to develop during my last couple years at Michigan. I would welcome the opportunity to connect for 20-30 minutes to discuss few questions about your position as ________________.

Please let me know what times/date would be most conducive for your schedule. 
Thank you for your time. 

All the best, 
Ima Wolverine (734) 291-4529

Remember to Send a Thank You Note!

After you meet with a contact, send an e-mail or a handwritten note saying how much you enjoyed meeting the person and what you learned. Bonus points for adding specific reasons you want to talk to the person / specific aspects of the conversation that resonated with you to demonstrate you were listening and valued their time.

Get “How to make a contact” coaching:

Schedule an appointment to help you do this and learn more about networking. You are not alone and we can assist: make an appointment.

Additional resources:


CONNECT WITH ALUMNI IN UCAN (UNIVERSITY CAREER ALUMNI NETWORK)

UCAN was launched last year and now includes several thousand alumni who have volunteered to help current students with informational interviewing. Search the UCAN database to find alumni who work at organizations that interest you or who hold positions you want to learn about. These alums are waiting to hear from you so they can share their career advice, industry tips and U-M experience!

UCAN is super easy to use, too. The system walks you through the steps to connect and even creates a draft message for you to send to the alumni you want to learn from.

It's NO-HASSLE networking! Conducting business on online platforms is the norm, and the world has gotten comfortable and proficient in leveraging these tools. This is the time to take advantage of this “virtual moment” to meet new professionals, develop/expand your career circles, and learn about available opportunities. With some commutes out of the way, more flexibility in work arrangements, and possibly an interest in some diversion – alumni and other career professionals will likely welcome you reaching out to them as trusted sources of information. Interacting with new people in a virtual space may take some practice so here are some virtual networking tips.


ALSO USE LINKEDIN

LinkedIn is a great resource for students looking for an additional edge as they network and job search. It’s easy to sign up for an account, but new users often get stuck asking "what next"? Simply having an account isn’t enough, so here are a few tips for students on getting started with LinkedIn:

Make Connections. If you can build a decent sized network on LinkedIn, all the other features will work much better! The first thing you should do is import contacts from your address book or webmail account, by clicking on ‘add connections’ along the top navigation within ‘Contacts.’

LinkedIn automatically selects all of the imported contacts, so first you should uncheck the ‘select all’ box. Now take a look through the list for people marked with the blue ‘in" logo to the right of their name (this means they’re already on LinkedIn), and select the ones you want to connect with. Good choices are fellow students from class/activities, former co-workers and supervisors, or close family friends. You can also search by graduating class and company, for those peers/colleagues for which you do not have their email address.

Join Relevant Groups. Groups are a great way to expand your network even further. Join alumni/UM related groups such as Wolverine Networking and University of Michigan Alumni. Next, try seeking out a group related to your chosen industry. Some examples are Public Relations and Communications ProfessionalsSports Industry Network, and Consultants Network. Joining relevant groups will allow you to view and participate in discussions with industry professionals, as well as allow you to get closer to connecting to all of the members that are already a part of that group.

We have plenty of next-level ideas for how to take advantage of LinkedIn in your job or internship search, as well. Once you get some of these steps taken care of, feel free to make an appointment for additional guidance.


ASK GOOD QUESTIONS

Networking Using Informational Interviews

One of the best ways to learn about career and potential job prospects is to talk with individuals currently working in that field.  This is called “informational interviewing.”  An informational interview may be conducted in person or via phone to help you gain knowledge about a field of choice. Whether you are still exploring and want to learn more basic information about a particular field, or if you have decided on a field or occupation and you are looking for tips on job searching--an informational interview is a fantastic resource.

information interview Questions:

Below are some sample questions you can use in an informational interview. Keep in mind that an informational interview is designed to help you learn more about a field, so ask about what's important to you.

General Question:  How did you get involved in this career path?
Forms it may take:

  1. How did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  2. What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging? What do you like and not like about working in this industry?
  3. What things did you do before you entered this occupation? Which have been most helpful?
  4. What other jobs can you get with the same background?
  5. How did you get your job? What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  6. Why did you decide to work for this company?
  7. What interests you least about the job or creates the most stress?
  8. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

General Question:  What is your job like?
Forms it may take:

  1. Could you describe a typical day?
  2. What do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your job?
  3. What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  4. What kinds of decisions do you make?
  5. What percentage of your time is spent doing what?
  6. How does the time use vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?

General Question:  Could you tell me about your company or organization?
Forms it may take:

  1. What do you like most about this company?
  2. How does your company differ from its competitors?
  3. Why do customers choose this company?
  4. Are you optimistic about the company’s future and your future with the company?
  5. What does the company do to contribute to its employees’ professional development?
  6. How does the company make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing? (Use of e-mail, Internet, intranets, World Wide Web page, video conferencing, etc.)

General Question:  Could you tell me about this field or occupation?
Forms it may take:

  1. What sorts of changes are occurring in your occupation?
  2. How does a person progress in your field? What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  3. What is the best way to enter this occupation?
  4. What are the advancement opportunities?
  5. What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
  6. If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?

General Question:  What leads to success in this field or occupation?
Forms it may take:

  1. What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
  2. What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job? How did you learn these skills? Did you enter this position through a formal training program?
  3. How can I evaluate whether or not I have the necessary background for a position such as yours?
  4. How well did your graduate experience prepare you for this job?
  5. What courses have proved to be the most valuable to you in your work? What would you recommend for me?

General Question:  Could you tell me about the company culture?
Forms it may take:

  1. How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
  2. Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and, if so, what is it? (Is it a people, service or product oriented business?)
  3. What can you tell me about the corporate culture?
  4. What is the average length of time for an employee to stay in the job you hold? Are there incentives or disincentives for staying in the same job?
  5. Is there flexibility related to dress, work hours, vacation schedule, place of residence, etc.?
  6. What work-related values are strongest in this type of work (security, high income, variety, independence)?

General Question:  Would you be willing to share your professional opinion on my job qualifications and materials?
Forms it may take:

  1. These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values)…. Where would they fit in this field? Where would they be most helpful in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they be helpful in other organizations?
  2. How would you assess the experience I’ve had so far in terms of entering this field?
  3. [If you feel comfortable asking and it seems appropriate:] Would you mind taking a look at my resume?
  4. With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?

General Question:  What is the job outlook for this type of position?
Forms it may take:

  1. How is the economy affecting this industry?
  2. What can you tell me about the employment outlook in your occupational field?
  3. How much demand is there for people in this occupation? How rapidly is the field growing?
  4. What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field? Is there a salary ceiling?
  5. What are the typical job titles and functions that are growing?

General Question:  Are there written materials or other professionals such as yourself that you could refer me to that would further assist me in my career exploration?
Forms it may take:

  1. Who else do you know who is doing similar kinds of work or uses similar skills?
  2. What other kinds of organizations hire people to perform the functions you do here?
  3. Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?
  4. Are there any written materials you suggest I read?
  5. Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
  6. How did you learn about this particular position/organization?
  7. What are resources you would recommend as I search for a job/internship in this field?

Questions adapted from:  www.quintcareers.com/information_interview.html