Ways Your Network Can Help

Tapping into your network can provide plenty of expected and sometimes unexpected benefits. If you approach networking with an open mind, you might get some really tangible benefits that can take your career in new ways. As you approach different steps in your career, use informational interviewing to help you tap into the rich knowledge- and experience-base of your network.

Here are some ways that your network can help you:

Career exploration

If you are uncertain about what major to choose, what internships are out there, what you might want to do when you finish your program—your network might be a good place to start. If you are just starting off in your program, connecting with students or researchers further along in their program and alumni might help you explore different majors, areas of research, or post-graduate opportunities. Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars might give you with insight into different aspects of graduate school and academia. Alumni may provide you with insight into future options after graduation.

To explore careers, ask questions like these:

  • How did you choose this area of research or work?
  • What is a typical work day like for someone like you?
  • What aspects of your work do you enjoy? What aspects do you find challenging?

Career planning

How did that student manage to juggle their classes, clubs, and an internship? Why don’t you ask them? The individuals and alumni above you may recall what it was like when they were in your place–and their insights might help you plan. If you feel uncertain where to take your next step, talking with your network may highlight one. They might help you identify a new resource that helped them through a challenging experience, or even share their own course roads with you. Graduate students, postdocs, and alumni might help you think about what steps you need to take for certain careers and graduate programs. You do not have to follow their advice fully, but use it as a way to identify potential obstacles and issues you may face as you move forward.

To help you plan your career, ask questions like these:

  • How do you recommend someone prepare for this type of work?
  • What should I start to work on now if I would like to be considered for a role like yours in the future?
  • What challenges do you see facing this occupation/organization/industry in the next 5-10 years?

Career research

Your network can offer glimpses into possible future versions of you. Chatting with a student who recently completed their internship might help you decide if that same internship is right for you next summer. Asking an alum about the culture of their organization may just help you determine if that type of work aligns with your own values. Think of it as asking for a recommendation for a restaurant or a show to stream. Their personal tastes and preferences may not match yours, but you might be able to identify aspects that are important to you.

To help you research different careers, ask questions like these:

  • What are ways that a new employee can make an impact in your organization?
  • What are the ways your contributions have been celebrated or recognized by your leaders?
  • I am really interested in sustainability; how is your organization developing greener policies and practices?


Overtime, a network contact may become a mentor to you. This could happen simply as a result of your continued outreach to one of your contacts for advice. Mentorship can be both formal or informal, short-term or long-term, but can provide long-range support as you develop your career.

No matter what members of your network do or do not do, your ultimate journey is up to you. Leverage the insights provided by your network to make better, well-informed decisions, but remember to reflect on what want to do. As you need additional help navigating all of the information you get from your network, know that CAPD is available to discuss your needs with you. Schedule an appointment with us.