Networking is a great way to find jobs that aren’t advertised through traditional channels. Up to 75% of jobs are found through word-of-mouth or referrals, so having a good network of contacts gives you access to this hidden job market.

Through networking, you can gain important career information and put yourself in the best position to acquire your preferred role. Networking helps with both research and finding employment.

Your network could include friends, lecturers, workmates, fellow students or club and society members, employers and sporting team mates. Some of these people may already work in your industry, or know someone who could help you.

By using a range of networking strategies, you can seek out opportunities, connect with people you know, make new connections, and learn more about your chosen industry as you pursue your dream job. Don’t network in a one-way fashion – it must have a two-way benefit, even if that benefit is at some point in the future.

Know your personal brand

An essential part of networking involves taking the time to consider your image. What impression do you want to leave for potential colleagues and employers? The way you present and express yourself, both in person and in writing, is the most obvious way in which you make an impact.

Here are some ways to work on your personal brand and create the best impression:

Starting to network

You need to plan your networking. Being clear about your future goals makes it easier for someone to help you.

Start with people you know well. They'll want to help and you'll feel more comfortable approaching them for help.

You should:

  • think about your friends, family, teachers, members of clubs or groups you belong to, and former work friends or employers. Do they know someone in your industry you can talk to for more information?
  • set up a LinkedIn profile and share it with your contacts.

To ensure you make a good impression and appear informed, research the company and industry before talking to your contact. Write a list of questions to ask about anything that isn't answered in your research, but don't include any questions that are easily answered by checking their website.

Professional events like a careers fairs or employer information sessions provide a great opportunity to practise your networking skills.

  • Practise telling someone your name, course and which positions interest you.
  • Think about what skills can you offer.
  • Consider where else you can meet people and practise. Good networking opportunities include lectures, student events and professional associations or other extracurricular activities.

Next steps for networking

Increase your contacts

  • Remember, every person you meet is a possible contact.
  • Ask your contacts to suggest new contacts.
  • Go to career events run by Career Connect, your faculty or student groups.
  • Join professional or industry associations and attend their events.
  • Join professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn.
  • Join groups in your area of interest.

Use your contacts

  • Focus on people you can call or speak to in person.
  • Only contact people when you have their name. If you haven't met them, mention up front your original contact or how you got their name.
  • Be aware that University alumni can provide discipline-specific connections and advice, while your fellow students will become part of your ongoing professional network.
  • When you get help from a contact, send them a thank-you message.
  • Keep in contact with people who have helped you.

Reflect on what you've learnt

Keep track of who you spoke to, follow-up actions, and key points you may have discussed. Did you:

  • make a good impression and leave your audience with a message?
  • appear confident?
  • keep the conversation flowing?
  • show genuine interest in what others had to say?
  • find the right people to speak with, or get referred to the right person?
  • learn something new from each person you spoke with?

It’s important to reflect on these questions each time you meet with someone so that you can improve your networking expertise.