Guide

Developing your networking skills

Updated on 23 April 2022

Learn how to develop your networking skills so that you can find new opportunities, practice existing skills, and develop new ones.

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Approaching strangers with requests can feel a bit scary, but it doesn’t need to be. Networking is essentially having a chat with someone with similar interests to you.

Ask questions and be open-minded – you don’t have to ‘win’ the interaction by coming out of it with a solid job offer. Simply making a connection with someone working in your industry of choice is a useful and successful use of your time – and who knows where it’ll lead in the future.

Online networking is increasingly useful. Making use of social media such as LinkedIn is an extremely effective way of increasing your networking reach. Have you got a LinkedIn profile? Are you using it in the most effective way.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a bit like a professional Facebook. Create a profile (like an interactive CV) and connect with employers, companies, and like-minded people.

Use LinkedIn to:

  • find the people and knowledge you need to achieve your career goals
  • create, manage and develop your professional identity online
  • find jobs - some employers will use LinkedIn as a direct recruitment portal
  • stay informed about your contacts and your specific industry of interest
  • be found by potential employers or recruiters. Being active on LinkedIn increases your Google rankings

You need to keep your profile up to date and be proactive on LinkedIn if you want it to benefit your career. Here are some of our suggestions for using LinkedIn proactively.

Getting started

  • Use a professional looking photo to make an instant impact.
  • Create an eye-catching headline with succinct statement about your career goals.
  • Seek recommendations from those with whom you have you've worked, studied, or volunteered.
  • Get feedback from a careers adviser on your LinkedIn profile.

Once you’ve created an effective profile, ensure you keep it up-to-date with all your achievements and experiences. Now you’re ready to start connecting with people and companies of interest to you.

Make connections

Begin by connecting to existing contacts such as friends, family, classmates, academics, colleagues, and employers from part-time jobs and internships, volunteering and extra-curricular activities.

You can connect with University of Dundee Alumni.

Try not to be intimidated by people in senior roles. Connect with people whose careers you admire, by using the advanced people search.

You can use a keyword search relevant to your career interests, e.g. ‘Clinical Psychology’, to show related profiles.

Make sure you personalise any request to connect. To do this, simply add a personal note as generic invitations are often ignored.

Think about:

  • tailoring your message in the ‘personal note’ box when you click to connect with someone.
  • look at their LinkedIn profile – do you have any similar interests, anyone in common?
  • be clear why you want to connect. Your reason should not be to request a job or work experience.

Request introductions

These help you to expand your network. You can ask an existing connection to introduce you to someone who is a second or third level connection, but not yet known to you.

You can:

  • follow company’s pages. Company profiles often have details of the organisation's products and services. They also often include where people have worked before. Use company search facility on LinkedIn to find these.
  • send messages. If you’re a member of the same group as someone, you can send them a direct message.
  • show your interest. Comment on industry-specific articles and ask questions in LinkedIn groups. This shows you're engaged and proactive. Avoid controversy unless you want to create a particular professional persona. Asking a well-considered question demonstrates you are business and industry aware.
  • be conscious of what you ask in groups. Do your research (at the least a Google search) before you ask a question and don’t ask anything that has an obvious answer.
  • research organisations, roles, staff and jobs. Find staff who work for the company you are researching: Search by ‘relationship’ to see your first, second and third degree contacts. Ask any contacts for information that could help you in the application process
  • investigate career paths - look at individual profiles to identify the key skills, knowledge and experience current employees at a particular company have. You can also search by degree subject, particular skills you want to use in a job and get inspiration from what alumni are doing.

Finally, once you’ve been successful and gained lots of job leads through LinkedIn, don’t forget to to check out your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile. This will help you find out more about them and see if there is anything you have in common.

Social media for job hunting

Use LinkedIn to find out about vacancies. Connect with companies, recruitment agencies, professionals, professional bodies and careers advisers.

Companies use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to post information on vacancies and even head hunt candidates. Not all opportunities are widely advertised, and social media can help you keep up-to-date with your industry, look out for news about company expansions, new contracts or funding being won.

This may lead to them requiring more staff and you could send a speculative application or enquiry before they advertise.

Your online presence

With an increasing amount of information available about us online, we are now able to create our own brand. What does yours say about you? When you google someone and see what they have posted about themselves you can really get a sense of who that person is.

You want to make sure your online presence shows you off in a positive light so think about what you post and how this will come across to an employer. Employers often google applicants. If they searched for you, would you be happy with what they find?

There are some great examples of students who have created an excellent personal brand by blogging and creating online portfolios of work. You can even create a link to an online blog or portfolio on your CV. Consider using the same professional photo across your professional social networks and think about what the content says about you.

Check your privacy settings on sites like Facebook and make sure there isn’t any old content lurking about in cyber space.

There are some great examples online of how people have used social media to secure themselves a job by creating YouTube videos or websites or just using creative marketing.

For example one clever job seeker, Alec Brownstein, managed to secure a job as an advertising copywriter by taking advantage of the fact the people google themselves. He placed a Google Adwords campaign which showed a message when one of the New York creative directors he had chosen entered their name into google. He created 5 adverts, secured 4 interviews and received 2 job offers.

LinkedIn resources