6 Easy Ways to Activate Your Network

By Sarah Hildebrand

Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Networking might be the best way to find out about different career paths and ultimately secure a position. However, many people are hesitant to reach out for fear that a person wouldn’t be interested in speaking to them or because they are unsure of how to spark a conversation. It’s good to keep in mind that, rather than being a one-way street, networking is actually mutually beneficial. You’ll be surprised at how many people would be happy to speak with you and how easily you can connect over your shared interests. This blog post will identify a few easy ways by which you can begin to activate your network.

6 Easy Ways to Network

1. Start Small—Reach Out to Your Peers

It can be daunting to reach out to a total stranger. Start by networking with your peers. Going out for coffee or drinks with classmates or colleagues counts as networking! These are perhaps some of the easiest people to network with since you already have shared experiences to discuss. While these individuals might not be in the position to help you with your job search now, you never know who will end up where later on. It’s also nice to have people to support you along the way.

2. Maintain Relationships with Past Connections

Another easier way to begin to network is to get back in touch with people you’ve had relationships with in the past. These might be former classmates, colleagues, teachers, or acquaintances who you haven’t crossed paths with in awhile. Most people will be happy to reconnect and interested in hearing what you’re up to now. It might be worth searching LinkedIn to see if there’s someone you used to be friendly with who now works at an interesting company or in a field you’d like to learn more about. Those would be good people to reach out to for a low-stakes catch-up over coffee.

3. Get Introduced by a Mutual Friend

Rather than reaching out to someone you may not know directly, it might feel more comfortable to be connected to them through a mutual friend. If you notice on LinkedIn that you have a second-degree connection to someone you’d like to speak with, consider asking your first-degree connection to introduce you. Having someone make an introduction for you will also increase the odds of the person responding.

4. Contact Alumni

Many alumni feel a sense of gratitude towards the institutions they graduated from and are happy to give back by mentoring current students. You also have a built-in connection to alumni because of your shared educational experiences and professional interests, which can make it easier to start a conversation. These people are great to contact for informational interviews—short 15-20 minute conversations about their career paths, current positions, and any advice they might have for how you can strengthen an application.

5. Approach Someone at a Conference or Other Professional Event

If you attend a conference, panel discussion, or speaker series, you will find yourself surrounded by people with a common interest. Rather than feel pressured to start a spontaneous conversation, you can research the presenters or other people in attendance beforehand and prepare a thoughtful question to ask about their work in advance. Be sure to exchange contact information with the person so that you can stay connected after the event.

6. Conduct a Cold Reach-Out

Is there a specific company you’d like to work for or an open position you’re interested in learning more about? Is there someone doing interesting work in your field? It can’t hurt to reach out to someone you might not have any prior connection with at all. While this might be the most intimidating form of networking, the worst case scenario is that they won’t respond, while the best case scenario is that your reaching out leads to a meaningful relationship, helpful career advice, or even a potential job lead down the line.

What Not to Do

Networking is not a time to ask directly for a job, especially if it’s your first time interacting with someone. Networking is about building relationships and gathering intel, which might help you discover a new career path or gain more insight into a position you might already think you’re interested in. If you choose to approach someone, be genuinely interested in having a conversation with them and simply making a connection. The stronger of a relationship you develop, the more likely it is that they will remember you later on if an opportunity does become available.