Creating Your Professional Network

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014; by Jenny Beth Jorgensen

The phrase it’s all in who you know is true when you’re creating your professional network and searching for a job. You can draw on your contacts for advice and encouragement, and the connections you’ve made in your field can help you learn about new opportunities.  You’ll find these connections helpful as you navigate graduate school and your professional career.

Networking at Conferences

Introduce yourself. You may feel hesitant or even intimidated by introducing yourself to someone new, but with a little practice, it becomes easier. A smile and a positive attitude are a great way to approach new people.  Attempt to get to know each individual and find common ground about a topic of interest.

Pass out business cards. Business cards are a great way to share your contact information with new people.  As a grad student at UNL, you can order student business cards from UNL’s Union and East Union Copy Center for a very reasonable price. Ordering online is easy

Keep in touch.  This may be one of the most difficult aspects of networking, since it’s easy to put off keeping in touch with people you’ve already met. But it’s important to keep yourself relevant to others in your network. An easy way to keep connected is to send your contacts articles they might find interesting.

Networking Online

Introductory emails. Once you find a new contact online, reach out right away through an email. Your email should explain how you found the individual, discuss a topic of interest you both share, and mention why you want to connect. Introducing yourself through email will open the lines of communication, and it'll be easier to reach out again later with a question.

Professional profiles.  If you haven’t already, create a profile with LinkedIn and maintain an active and professional presence there. Your profile is your digital calling card—when others search the Internet for you, it can be the first thing they’ll see.

Clean up your online profile pages (this should include all of your social media accounts) to include only professional pictures, comments, and topics. Make sure all your personal information is accurate and describes your abilities and skills.  Guarantee that your profile exemplifies who you are as a professional!

Update your professional network.  News feeds on online social networks are a great way to stay up-to-date about what’s going on in your field.  Post significant news articles and thoughtful questions that could spark discussion about your specialization. Commenting on others’ topics will also demonstrate your commitment to your professional network, as you build relationships.

Creating a professional network is an essential tool to help navigate your career.  Not only will your network include your current professors, but also individuals you’ve met at professional conferences or even through a professional online network. Put a little time into building your network now—these relationships can serve you throughout your career.