Ready to build your network? Potential employer connections are closer than you think. Here are the steps to identifying and approaching people who can provide valuable career insights and potential opportunities.
Make a Strong Introduction
Your networking efforts will involve introducing yourself to many types of people. To ensure that you are efficient and confident in your initial approach, it would be wise to develop an introduction that you feel good about.
Who are you? Introduce yourself and begin to tell your story. Indicate your school and major or concentration. Include whether you have worked on any academic projects related to the field.
What sets you apart? Mention internships, work or volunteer experience and two to three unique skills or accomplishments.
What are you seeking? Help contacts help you. For example, freshmen might be looking for insight about the field, sophomores, and juniors an internship and seniors a full-time job.
Begin to tell your story:
Start with a quick introduction
Throughout your career, you will need to tell your story in a variety of ways. Imagine that you were in an elevator with a recruiter and had only 30 seconds between floors to sell yourself, what would you say? You never know when a networking opportunity may arise, so develop this “elevator pitch” based on your introductory essentials. It will be invaluable during career fairs and other large-scale networking events, but will also come in handy during early conversations with a new contact.
Prepare to Connect
Now that you have developed and practiced a solid introduction, there are a number of ways to connect with people. Make the most of the resources available to you as a Vanderbilt student in the form of our powerful and passionate alumni network.
Connecting With Alumni
The Vanderbilt alumni network is an invaluable career tool. Whether you are making decisions about your major, post-undergraduate education or career, alumni are often eager to offer advice and referrals. Tap into the network and see how Vandy’s alumni might help.
This searchable directory allows you to look up classmates and fellow Commodores via a variety of customized searches. The Career Advisor Network section of the directory will allow you to locate over 7,000 professionals in industries, organizations and/or locations that interest you – these people have indicated a willingness to impart career advice that helps you on your journey!
70,000 of Vanderbilt’s alumni are active on LinkedIn. Foster connections that help you mine their experience, seek career advice and expand your network.
Be mindful and respectful as you network.
Your fellow Commodores are often generous with their time but tend to be incredibly busy. Always use professional courtesy and thank alumni who respond to your requests.
LinkedIn Alumni Search Tool
Cultivate connections that help you mine the experience of past Vanderbilt students, seek career advice and expand your network.
Build Your Profile
If you are not already on LinkedIn, building a profile should be your first action item. The site is the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 500 million professionals and organizations in over 200 countries. There are more than 40 million students and recent college graduates with a profile on LinkedIn. The relationships you build can be valuable during career exploration and beyond.
Your profile may be the first impression a new contact has of you. Please reference this handy PDF that LinkedIn created specifically for students. The Career Center can also help you polish your profile. Be sure your profile identifies you as a Vanderbilt student and highlights your accomplishments and interests.
Leverage the Alumni Network
Vandy has a very active alumni network. Past students may be willing to offer insights about potential fields and career paths.
Search for Vanderbilt alumni.
- Find alumni.Type Vanderbilt University into LinkedIn Search box. Once on the Vanderbilt Linkedin page click “See Alumni” tab.
- Use filters.Select graduation dates to frame your search, and use filters like “where they work” or “what they do” to narrow possible connections.
- Explain your purpose.When reaching out to alumni through LinkedIn it is important to craft a brief personalized connection message. It should explain who you are, mention Vanderbilt and describe why you wish to connect.
- Join groups. As you identify alumni you might want to connect with, view the Groups section of their profile and consider joining similar LinkedIn groups
Have an upcoming interview? See if there are Vanderbilt alumni at the organization who can help you learn more. Curious about a career in a specific industry? Seek an informational interview. As with all networking, be respectful of people’s time.
Research Fields and Organizations
- Follow organizations of interest. You do not have to become an expert on a specific firm or organization, but taking the time to do research is a vital part of the process.
- Use the student job search. The Student LinkedIn App allows students to search both internships and jobs for recent grads.
- Learn best practices.The networking skills you develop here have real-world value. Connect, learn and prepare for success.
Connecting With Potential Employers
Making connections with potential employers before you start looking for internships and jobs can help you get your foot in the door. It is also a great way to explore the types of industries and professions that match your skills and interests.
It is never too early to start developing a group of professional contacts. Networking is a skill, so the sooner you get started, the better. You might start as early as your freshman year, exploring alumni within a target industry or firm using VUconnect or LinkedIn. Deepen your network by attending a career fair, company information sessions or connecting via social media.
Connecting With Family & Friends
When beginning to network, you might not be initially inclined to consider friends and family. This might be especially true if you do not see any obvious connection to your industry or organization of interest. This is shortsighted, as friends and family can be your biggest allies and resources. They are invested in your success and you never know whom they might be linked with.
A Great Place to Begin
As you begin reaching out, it is important that you do your homework first. Clarifying your goals and conducting industry/company research will give you the knowledge and confidence to make a strong first impression. Impressing your friends and family with your preparation and interest will increase the likelihood they will engage their personal network on your behalf.
Explore your personal contact list.
Networking is less intimidating if you start with people you know or have something in common with. As you begin networking, start with:
- Older students
- Coaches or advisors
- University administrators or staff
- Supervisors or co-workers
Make the most of family events.
Family gatherings and events might not seem like networking opportunities, but these are a great time to share your plans. Are you looking for an internship? A job? Do you want to talk to someone in the field? Even though these events tend to be more casual, take a professional approach. You have to create a good impression before someone will share their time and contacts.
Consider your social connections.
You’re most likely connected with friends and family via social media. Now that you’re thinking about your career, reconsider how you’re using it. Social tools are a good way to reach out to friends and family you might not see regularly to alert them to your goals and interests.
An important tip: take a time out to review your online reputation at the beginning of the process. Your profile, photos and interactions will determine the impression others have of you.
Professional associations are an excellent means of connecting with people in your industry of interest. Whether you are in the exploration phase or actively seeking a position, these professional groups provide comprehensive information about industry-specific activities and how you can get “plugged in.”
The Power of Associations
There is a professional association for nearly every career and industry. Better yet, many offer students membership rates, and some even have campus chapters. To find your match, see if the career you are interested in has a professional association on The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE) website, or talk to us about associations that might be best to join as a student.
Once you match an association to your interests, make yourself visible. Many associations provide opportunities specifically for student members, which can be incredibly valuable when it comes time to market yourself. They also provide a pathway to forge personal connections. Possible opportunities include:
- Networking events
- Mentoring programs
- Job boards
Make strategic social connections.
Most professional organizations have a social media presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. Consider following them to get a sense of the kind of activities and programs they offer. Other ways to interact include:
- Following their status updates or tweets
- Replying, retweeting or direct messaging members of the organization
- Starting or joining a conversation
- Seeing if they offer Tweetchats or Tweetups and join
Treat interactions with professional associations the same way you would potential employers. You never know who might turn into a lead.