Helpful tips for developing networking connections


You'll find that networking is one of the most important parts of the job search. Networking in your desired career field can help you learn about trends, give you real life perspectives, and connect you with opportunities.

  • Outreach templates and samples

    Dear _____,

    I am a 1st year engineering student at the University of Virginia. I'm currently interested in majoring in Systems Engineering or Computer Science and am actively learning more about both as I evaluate which I’d like to declare next semester. I'd enjoy having a brief informational interview with you to learn more about your career path and interests as a Systems grad, as well as any tips and advice you may have for me. I’m sure you have a busy schedule, but if you’re available to speak on the phone for 20-30 minutes in the next 2-3 weeks, I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with and learn from you.

    Thank you for your time and assistance!

    Regards/Sincerely/your preferred closing of choice,

    First and last name

    ––––––––––––––––––––

    Hi _____,

    I’m a Second Year at UVA with an interest in both renewable energy and entrepreneurship. As I explore these interests and make choices about my coursework, I’m hoping to speak with alumni for tips and advice. Your experience working at X and Y is a path I can imagine myself pursuing, and I’m interested in learning how you chose this path and what you consider the highlights and challenges of your work. I’d greatly appreciate if we could connect for 30 minutes on the phone or Skype sometime over the next few weeks, as your insights would be invaluable to my exploration and planning efforts.

    Thanks so much!

    ––––––––––––––––––––

    Hi Julia,

    I’m a 3rd year ChemE at UVA with an interest in both clean energy and food production. As I explore both areas and consider how best to spend next summer, I’m hoping to speak with alumni in each field to learn more about your experiences post-graduation. Your experience working at X and Y is a path I can imagine myself pursuing, and I’m interested in learning how you chose this path and what you consider the highlights and challenges of your work. I’d greatly appreciate if we could connect for 30 minutes on the phone or Skype sometime over the next few weeks, and your tips and advice would be invaluable.

    Thank you!

    All the best,

    ––––––––––––––––––––

    Dear _____,

    I’m a 4th year Biomedical Engineering major at UVA with an interest in (field), and after some recent research X, Y, and Z (companies) currently top my employers of interest. As you may have experienced, these companies don’t usually visit Grounds, but I’d like to learn more about them before I apply for jobs. I’d value your insight into the company culture, interesting and challenging projects you’ve worked on, and overall tips and advice for conducting a job search in the field. I’m sure you have a busy schedule, but if you’re available for 30 minutes any time in the next two weeks, I’d love to ask you a few questions about your experiences. 

    Thanks for considering, and I look forward to hearing from you!

  • Informational Interviews

    Informational interviews offer a way for you to learn more about a major, career field, industry, or organization of interest!

    You'll speak with someone who is already working in a career field of interest and ask them questions, gathering helpful information that can help you make important decisions. For example, if you're interested in research and unsure if you'd be most interested in working at a university, a national laboratory, or in industry, it would be helpful to speak to someone who represenents each of those environments – how did they choose their path, what do they love about their job, and what challenges do they exprerience?

    Informational interviews are often conducted over the phone, a video chat platform, or in person. They can also be unplanned, as you may find yourself sitting next to someone interesting on an airplane, at an event, or in line. 

    Who do I interview?

    You can ask to interview anyone, but many find it easiest to start with their immediate newtork, like family, family friends, and their friends' parents. Alumni also love staying in touch with the UVA community by offering tips and advice to current students. Learn various ways to connect with alumni below on this page.

    What questions can I ask?

    Most informational interviews are scheduled for 20-30 minutes, so select the questions you're most interested in learning about prior to the conversation. Choose questions from this sample list of informational interviewing questions and feel free to add some of your own.

    How do I end an informational interview?

    Many students ask us how to maximize the experience. Instead of asking your set of questions and ending the conversation with a thank you, consider also asking for a referral to additional people of interest or opportunities you should explore. For example, "Sarah, thank you for your time today. I found your thoughts on X and suggestions for Y really helpful, and I'm going to give that more thought after our conversation. As I continue exploring the field, do you have a recommendation of someone else I might be interested in speaking with/organizations I should research and learn more about?" 

    By asking for referrals to other people or resources, you're continously expanding your network and opportunities.

    Be sure to send a thank you email after the informational interview, and if you use the person's advice down the road, it's appropriate to check back in to let them know how much you valued their time and what decisions you've made.

    Additional resources

    3 Steps to a Perfect Informational Interview 

    How to Ask for an Informational interview

    5 Tips for Non-Awkward Informational Interviews

    4 Fears People Have about Informational Interviews

  • Elevator pitch

    You've likely heard of an elevator pitch, elevator speech, or 30-second commercial. 

    Whatever the name, this pitch is a brief soundbite of what you want employers to know as you first introduce yourself. You'll usually lead with your pitch at a career fair and might use a version of your pitch at interviews, info sessions, and other networking opportunities.

    Need help getting started? Use the prompts below, along with these questions, to draft your pitch. 

    • Start with your name, year, and major. 
    • Follow with a couple of sentences that highlight what you’re interested in and how that connects to the company. 
    • Continue by mentioning a couple of recent courses, projects, internships, or experiences that have given you the skills the company is looking for. 
    • Help get the conversation started by finishing your pitch with a question for the company rep to respond to.  

    Additional resources:

    Creating your Perfect Pitch

    15-minute method to writing your pitch

    SEE IT IN ACTION - 60 second video of a great elevator pitch

  • Connecting with alumni

    In addition to alumni you may already know and those you'll meet at events on Grounds, you can connect with alumni of interest through LinkedIn and the Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) program.

    LinkedIn

    If you have a LinkedIn account, you can learn more about 145,000+ UVA alumni with the Alumni Tool

    Sort alumni by where they live, where they work, what they do, what skills they have, or what they studied while on Grounds. View profiles to learn about an alum's academic and professional background. Once you find someone you'd like to communicate with (to ask them for an informational interview, for example) you can initiate contact by:

    • Selecting the "Connect" button on her profile and "Add a note" to introduce yourself. NOTE: Some LinkedIn users don't accept connections requests from people they don't already know.
    • Viewing the "contact info" section of the profile. Occasionally a LinkedIn user will list his email address here.
    • Reviewing the profile to see if the alum links to an online portfolio or other website that might list her contact information.

     

    You can also send a direct message (or InMail) to LinkedIn users if they are your 1st degree connections or if you have a LinkedIn group in common. If you find an alum of interest through the Alumni Tool, you might also find them in these groups:

     

    Once you're a member of these groups, select the number of members link, just below the group's title at the top. On the next page, enter the alum's name at the top. If he's in the group, you can use the email icon to the right to send him a message for free without sending an official connection request.

    In addition to the UVA-affiliated groups, considering joining groups for engineering socitieies, like IEEE, or other groups of interest.

    Review the sample outreach templates and informational interivewing guide on this page to learn more about making strong connections with alumni. 

    Review more tips for maximzing your LinkedIn account.

    VAM (Virginia Alumni Mentoring)

    Through VAM, you can sign up for a one-time "flash mentoring" conversation with an alum or seek a semester-long mentoring relationship. 

    Alumni in VAM have volunteered to be contacted! They want to offer you insights into their industry or field while offering guidance as you explore careers, apply for opportunities, and make decisions. 

    Learn more and register here. Then, review potential discussion topics and tips for mentees before you contact a potential mentor.

  • Employer events

    Many employers visit Grounds and host various events, including:

    • Career fairs
    • Information sessions
    • Tech talks
    • Skill-building workshops and competitions
    • Coffee chats

     

    We encourage you to take advantage of these unique opportunities, whether you're exploring careers with a focus on learning or actively pursuing the organization the employer represents. Some employers partially guage your interest in their organization by  participation in their events on Grounds. 

    Review the Events section of Handshake and register for employer events of interest.