Networking is often a useful tool in developing your career and exploring career openings. It can also put you in touch with unadvertised opportunities in the hidden job market. Finding a contact with knowledge about an industry, company or job can save valuable time and increase your understanding of the post that you are applying for.
Do not expect that networking will lead directly to a job offer. View the process as a series of steps enabling you to become a better informed candidate and to hear about opportunities that may never get advertised, to build up relevant work experience and be ready to spot and seize opportunities when they present themselves.
Download our handout on Networking [pdf].
Improve your networking skills
The term “networking” can strike fear or revulsion in many people. It can conjure images of a schmoozer or a hard sales pitch. In reality networking is something you do every day with your friends, colleagues and the new people you meet in your life. It’s the art of holding a conversation and making a positive impression to form a mutually beneficial connection.
See our short guide 'Making the most of employer events', or for a more detailed insight in to successful networking check out 'Improve Your Networking' - a guide to help you prepare for these conversations and ensure you make the most of employer events and networking opportunities
Expanding your network
Your existing network of contacts may need to be expanded to enable you to research and plan your career. You will need to develop and demonstrate some lateral-thinking as well as strong interpersonal skills and perseverance to network effectively; in the process you'll be developing a skill that will be invaluable throughout your career. Consider the following avenues to expanding your network:
ideas to expand network
Consider who you already know
These could be contacts from a variety of settings, such as:
- Industry or business, that you've perhaps met during collaborations or whilst attending conferences
- Professional networks and special interest groups
- Within your own department - academic staff, postdocs, PhD students (past and present)
Remember each of your contacts has their own network and people are often more willing to provide information and advice than you might think.
Ask an Alumnus
Often it can be difficult to find contacts in order to gain an insight into what it is like to work in a specific company/industry or ask other career-related questions. Ask an Alumnus, a service run by the Careers Service, is a database of Imperial alumni who are willing to answer these questions. Use this as an opportunity to expand your networking contacts and gain useful information for applications and career decisions.
Alumni Mentoring Scheme
The Imperial College Careers Service launched the Alumni Mentoring Scheme in October 2014, an initiative which aims to develop Imperial students’ knowledge of the professional workplace and potential careers via individual alumnus Mentors. The scheme promotes and supports a structured relationship between alumni and students, whereby alumni can share their professional experiences, personal insights and employability advice with students to:
- Increase their prospects, through greater understanding of career opportunities, the workplace and employer expectations
- Enhance their aspirations and increase their confidence when thinking about their career planning
The mentoring partnerships will last 10 months, from January to October and are a great way to increase your network by having a longer-term interaction with an alumnus and hopefully being introduced to their extended network.
Alumni associations and the Professional Networking Directory
Alumni associations are a great way to meet new people, and provide their members with plenty of opportunities for networking. Imperial has alumni associations all over the world who will be pleased to welcome you. Find out more on the alumni pages.
You can also network online using the Alumni Office’s Professional Networking Directory. The Directory allows you to search for, and contact, fellow Imperial alumni who have volunteered to provide professional advice based on their own personal experience. Set up an online account to access this.
If you have any questions about alumni associations or the Professional Networking Directory, please contact the Alumni Office directly.
LinkedIn is a widely used professional networking site that enables individuals to connect with one another or join interest groups across the globe. Once you are a group member, you will be able to learn about other members and you can study their career paths, for example. You can also connect with people directly, pose questions or simply read up about current debates to inform your understanding of a job sector.
The key to using LinkedIn effectively is creating a personal profile and writing a short summary statement about you. For a short course about LinkedIn and how to use it effectively for your job hunting and networking visit the LinkedIn Grad Guides.