How to Network

7 steps to effective networking

If you are just getting started with networking, we've provided you this easy-to-follow, structured process.

We've also created an interactive tool to stay organized and be strategic. The Networking Planner, also known as a" networking tracker," is a multi-tab Google Sheet that you can create a copy of and edit to suit  your needs. 

Create your personal copy of our Networking Planner


1. Clarify your goal

What are you hoping to accomplish?

Depending on who you are meeting with, your informational interview can have different goals.  Most college students focus on these 3 goals when networking: 

    • Learn about possible careers (particularly those you are not familiar with)
    • Learn about the skills needed to be successful
    • Learn about steps you should take now to be a competitive candidate

Do you see a common theme here? Remember that networking is about learning, not asking for a job.

Start thinking about questions to ask

Before you contact someone to schedule an informational interview,  see the QUESTIONS tab on the Networking Tracker (see link above).  Look through the list and think about which may be the best ask for particular contacts you meet.

2. Find people to network with

Now that you have an idea of what questions you want to ask, think about who can help get you the answers. Your network is bigger than you think.  Before you log in to LinkedIn and begin firing off messages to prominent alums, start with those you know. Not only will these conversations be easier, you can also get more comfortable with talking to professionals.

Talk to fellow ND students

If talking to an alum or other professional sounds intimidating to you, have conversations with fellow students. While you're at it, ask them for tips on how they have found success with networking.

Find ND students on Handshake

Meet students from other colleges/universities

Did you know that you Handshake has a network where you can connect with more than 1,000,000 college students?  Search by the internships they had and ask them about their experiences.

Find other college students on Handshake

Find alumni on IrishCompass

More than 10,000 ND alumni have signed up to join IrishCompass because they want to help students. Think of IrishCompass as a more exclusive LinkedIn, with much better filters and personal information.  IrishCompass makes finding an alum easy because you can filter by:

    • academic major
    • location where they live now
    • residence hall
    • clubs/activities, study abroad, and more. 

What's even better is that many alumni have identified how they can help you (e.g. informational interview, mock interview, job shadow, and more). IrishCompass even has 3,000+ alumni who are willing to give you tips on how to network effectively. 

How to use IrishCompass     

Find recruiters and other professionals on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most widely used networking resource by professionals around the world.  While IrishCompass has 10,000+ alumni on the platform, LinkedIn has 70,000 Domers, plus millions of other professionals.  LinkedIn is the best place to find recruiters.

How to use LinkedIn  

Find an email address for an ND alum

You are not going to find email addresses on IrishCompass, and not many professionals on LinkedIn will post their emails.  The best place to find an email address for an alum is in the Notre Dame alumni directory found on the ND Alumni Association's website,  While not every alum has an email or phone number listed, this is going to be your best bet.

Look up an alumni's email

Find a recruiter or professional's email

Finding an email address can be a bit of a challenge.  One of the free resources we offer you is CareerShift, a platform that not only helps you find email addresses, but can also be used to search for internships and full-time jobs.

Learn more about CareerShift

3. Practice

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

It's OK to be nervous.  The first few informational interviews you conduct may feel a bit awkward. The more you network, the easier it becomes. Take some time to practice with a roommate, friend, or family member before you reach out to an alum or recruiter.

Before you head to a career fair, event, or request an informational interview, practice your elevator pitch with content like

  • Your name (note: if you have a name that others struggle with, it is helpful to provide a phonetic reference)
  • What types of careers you are exploring

Need help refining your pitch?  We've created an interactive tool to help you get started.

Create your elevator pitch

4. Make the ask

Be courteous and specific.

If you are contacting someone you do not know, use this as a guide:

  • Give them insight about how you found them (e.g. I read your profile on IrishCompass.) 
  • Articulate your personal connection (e.g. I saw that you lived in St. Edward's Hall. I live on the 3rd floor this year.)
  • Ask for 20 minutes of their time, and let them know your availability.

People want to know about you.

Imagine you received a request from someone you did not know. The first thing you would do is see what you could find out about them. As such, be sure your LinkedIn and IrishCompass profile are up to date. 

Have an updated resume ready to send. Don't be surprised if someone you network with says, "Send me your resume and I'll pass it along to people I know."

5. Have the conversation

It's go time!

This is what you have been preparing for!  Here are a few tips:

  • Have your list of 3 questions memorized and ready to go. Try your best to memorize these. The goal is to have a personal conversation, not an interview.
  • Have a pad of paper (or card) and pen with you in case the person you are meeting with gives you 
  • Arrive/join the meeting precisely on time. If meeting someone in person, arrive 5 minutes early.
  • Smile. A friendly demeanor helps break the ice.
  • Show respect and begin with formality. Use the title "Ms." or "Mr." or "Dr." followed by their last name when you begin conversing. If they say "You can call me (first name)," then use their first name moving forward.
  • Be grateful, but not over the top. Lead your conversation with "I recognize you are very busy, Ms. Smith, and I appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your busy day to meet with me. While I have many questions on my mind as I am exploring careers, I want to be respectful of your time."
  • Be genuine. It's ok to be nervous and say, "Thanks for your patience. I am just getting started with informational interviewing."
  • Be professional and don't ask questions that you can find online.  
    • Instead of "What do you do at (organization)?", say:
    • "I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you have held 3 positions at (organization) and you are now the chief operating officer."
  • Always close with "As I continue to learn about (industry, types of roles, particular organization) is there anyone you can think of who would be good for me to contact?" If they hesitate, be ready to say "It's OK if you can't think of anyone right now. I am working on a list and just thought I would ask."
  • Remember to smile!  People are more likely to remember your personality than your conversation.
  • Immediately after your meeting, jot down everything you remember, particularly advice you were given.

6. Follow up

Close the loop.

Networking does not end after your meeting.

  • Send a thank you email within 24 hours after your meeting.  Be sure to provide a specific reference to something the person shared with you (e.g. "I found your advice about).
  • Keep your contacts updated on your progress. Maintaining your connections is an ongoing process which will help you throughout your career.
  • Networking is a mutually beneficial process. If you discover a resource or article that you think one of your contacts would appreciate, pass it along.
  • If somebody referred you to another contact who was particularly helpful, write to the original person and let them know.

7. Keep in touch

Keep your relationship warm.

People you network with want to know how things go for you.  Here are some sample times of when you can send a follow up:

  • After you reach your goal (e.g. get invited to a job interview) 
  • Thanksgiving (this is a great time to give thanks!)
  • End of a semeseter or academic year
  • New year's day/week

While there is no need to send updates at all of these intervals, you will want to keep your relationship warm.

These follow-up emails do not need to be long.

See sample emails

Final tips and reminders

You can do this!

This page had a lot of information, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed. That's OK!  Once you get the hang of networking, it will become much easier. Here are some tips students and alums have found most helpful:

  • It's OK to be nervous.  The more you network, the better you become at it. 
  • Start with people you know.  Friends, family, classmates.
  • Don't be offended if you do not hear back from the person you contact. 
  • Always end your conversation with a request for names of a contact in their network.

Have questions? Send us an email at