How to Network

An important feature of networking is that it takes time. Here are the steps you may need to follow to grow and develop your network. Keep in mind that there is not one right way to network, so you may have to vary your approach depending on your goals, timeline, and personality.

Make a list of people you know. This will help you realize that you already have a strong foundation for your network.

  • School
  • Work/Internships
  • Family/Friends
  • Activities/Hobbies
  • Other
Image of a person with multi-color lines connecting to others around them with labels of family, friends/peers, alumni, employers, classmates, faculty, clubs and orgs, and staff

Identify others you have met inside and outside MIT, and methods for how to meet new people who may have similar interests or expertise. Below are some events/opportunities to do so:

At MITOutside MIT
Company presentationsProfessional associations/conferences
Career FairsLocal/regional career fairs and events
MIT Alumni Advisors HubCommunity groups
Residence hall / living groupsOnline groups: LinkedIn, Facebook
Student groupsIndustry meetups

Sometimes it can be challenging to expand your connections by yourself. Ask existing contacts if they are able to introduce you to others. Here is a sample message you might use:

Dear [Friend],

As you know, I am beginning to think about my plans after graduation. So far, I am thinking about exploring opportunities in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I believe you may know some people that work in these areas, and I would greatly appreciate it if you could introduce me or share with me their contact information. Would you be able to introduce me to them? I am very thankful for any connections you can provide.

[Your Name]

What are you hoping to get out of your networking experience? Understanding your intentions can help you clarify who would be most beneficial to connect with.

You may consider using tools like a Five Year Resume to help you determine what are your priorities and what you are hoping to achieve through networking.

Develop a 30-second script you can use to introduce yourself to people. Practice it until you’re comfortable because you will need to use it at a moment’s notice. You may want several versions to use depending on the audience.

Prepare for networking opportunities like you would a job interview: do research in advance on the person, company and/or industry, and show up dressed to impress with a list of questions to ask. You may even decide to practice answering some basic interview questions so you feel more confident.

An informational interview is a meeting where you ask for information and advice rather than employment. The job seeker gathers information on the field, finds employment leads, and expands his or her professional network. Learn more about informational interviews.

Be sure to follow up with an email or letter thanking the person for their time. This professional courtesy goes a long way.

Here is an example of a message you might send:

Dear Mildred Hires,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about your career path and for your interest in learning more about me and my background. Your insight into how you achieved your position has helped me think about the steps I may need to take in my own career. I am hoping that I can keep in contact with you as I continue to move forward with my career plans. Again, I appreciate your time.

David Carr

Keep networking notes. Keep track of who you speak with and when, and set reminders to follow up if you want to nurture the relationship.

Try to end informational interviews with names of more contacts. The more you network, the more you learn and the more opportunities you can create. Building genuine relationships through networking is a lifelong practice, so master your techniques and go explore.

As you develop your network, reach out to CAPD for guidance. We are happy to talk you through your approach and offer additional support and tools that may help you achieve your networking goals.