Work the Network: Why You Should Invest Your Time in Networking

By Rebecca Rogalski, Social Media Intern

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career is ignoring the power of networking. Networking has become such an important factor in obtaining any job, internship, or even strong letters of recommendation, especially in competitive markets. Throughout my time at Notre Dame, I have learned just how vital it is to establish relations with just about everyone and anyone, as well as how to successfully go about creating a strong, diverse network.

photo courtesy of the Notre Dame Career Center

The old adage goes, “it’s a lot about who you know”, and in this day and age, that statement couldn’t be more true.

To demonstrate the importance of networking, check out the following scenario:

Let’s say you are among one other finalist for a competitive job at Company A. Your résumé is perfect, your cover letter is flawless, and you even nailed your phone interview.

But so did your competition, and she reached out to someone within the company months ago letting them know of her interest, and she talked to several people within the company about the internship opportunity, AND she went out of her way to develop meaningful relationships with these professionals in the industry.

As you can see, by the time it comes for Company A to make their final decision, your competitor’s name has already been spread throughout the company for weeks (maybe even months), while you are stuck in your place with only a few individuals knowing you by your name, résumé, and one phone conversation. While your competitor made the effort to get to know individuals within the company, you idly sat by, hoping that your skills and GPA would be enough to land you the job.

It’s a tough reality to face, but creating a network is so important as industries (as well as universities) become more and more competitive.

You now know how important networking is. Congrats! But just how do you go about creating such a strong network?

1.     Start networking before you need it.

The best, and easiest way to secure some great contacts is by reaching out as early as you can to those you’re interested in talking to. Employers and admissions representatives can smell desperation if you come to them very late in the employing or admissions game. By connecting with these individuals early on, you will show them that you have initiative, are determined and value them and their time.

2.     Forget your ulterior motives.

When you first connect with someone, take the time to get to know him or her. It isn’t about your personal agenda at this point, rather learning more about the individual you are talking to. Often times finding out more about an employer or admissions representative helps you discover whether or not the job/university is right fit for you.

3.     Connect the dots.

You’ve made a strong, lasting connection. Now’s the time to expand the circle and realize how that one person you’ve met may be able to connect you with others. Ask them if they know anyone else who might be of interest to you. At this point, they should be more than willing to help you out.

4.     Follow-Up.

This is the most important step. Make sure you keep in contact with your networks and let them know how much you appreciate their help. A small “thank you” to someone can go a long way. Little acts of kindness mean a lot to people, as just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better.

And there you have it! Though it might not be true for all internships, jobs, and admissions processes, networking can be the key aspect that makes you stand out from the rest of your competitors and be the deciding factor in who gets that coveted job, internship, or admission.

Happy networking!