Many professionals find networking and job hunting stressful and intimidating. LinkedIn, social media, and online job boards have eliminated the literal legwork, but networking can still be challenging.
With these networking tips, you can eliminate the stress from the process and make your network work for you.
While networking can lead to new career opportunities, it offers so much more. Your network can give you support, advice, and confidence, along with role models and professional guidance. Digital networking may be less personal than traditional face-to-face methods, but it's also more convenient, flexible, and accessible.
Here, we look at the benefits of building a network and provide our top networking tips to guide you along the way.
Why networking can get you farther than submitting job applications
Sending out unsolicited resumes or applying for positions on job boards may be the easiest way to apply for a job, but it is not the most effective.
Big tech companies get thousands of applicants for each of their positions. Candidates who simply submit a resume have only one chance at making an impression and landing a tech job interview.
Here are several ways that networking can improve those odds:
References can get your resume past the screener and into the hiring manager's hands, bypassing one of the most difficult steps.
Strong references and professional networks lend you credibility.
A reference helps paint a complete picture of you better than a resume alone.
Many employers prefer candidates who have a connection to the company — even a minor one.
Having a reference can speed up the application process, helping you land interviews more quickly and effectively.
Network connections may alert you to new openings or even recommend you to a recruiter.
Why networking isn't as nerve-wracking as you might think
Networking can seem a lot scarier than it is, particularly for introverts. But the most effective networking is genuine, not formal. It's less wine-fueled mixers and more casual email catch-ups.
Keep things conversational. You are trying to build relationships and trust, not applying for a job. You want to be thoughtful, honest, and considerate. When someone does something for you, however small it may be, show your appreciation and return the favor if and when you can.
While you may not always get the response you want, you should not fear asking for guidance, advice, or support from your network. In many cases, your contact will be flattered and eager to help.
Networking tips to land a tech job
These four networking tips could help you secure a new position in the tech industry.
1. Make a list of people to whom you could reach out.
Start your networking process off by building a list of contacts who currently work in a tech company. This can include anyone you think of that can help you and anyone that you might be able to help. Aim to include professionals in, above, and below your current career stage.
As we've done below, sort the list into sections. Groupings might include:
People you know and interact with regularly
People you lost touch with
People you have a weak connection with
People you want to meet
While every person will require a unique contact approach, you can use similar strategies for many who share a category.
Dormant ties are people you have not seen or talked to in a while. Acquaintances who work in a tech role or for a tech company are valuable. Even if their role is not tech-related, they could help make an introduction to a tech professional within their organization.
Since these contacts already know you, reconnecting and adding them to your network will be much easier and much more effective than other contact types.
Weak ties are friends of friends: Those connected to you indirectly. They may be a friend of a coworker, a family member of a family friend, or someone who went to your high school.
These loose connections should help contacting them feel less intimidating on your end and less intrusive on theirs. You can reference your common bond when you reach out or even have a person who knows you both make the introduction.
College alumni who work in your industry or desired company
Your college alumni network can be a great place to find new contacts for your network.
Having attended the same school is an effective ice breaker in conversation, and it creates a sense of kinship. Plus, sharing an academic background with a successful industry professional can lend weight to your diploma.
People you want to meet
For this group, think about people who have your dream career or work for an organization you admire. You may wish to emulate them or model your career path on theirs.
2. Determine the best way to reach out to your desired connections.
The digital world has provided us with countless methods for contacting people, but each platform and medium has its pros and cons when it comes to networking. You want to apply some strategy to which method you use depending on the type of contact. Here are some examples.
LinkedIn is a networking platform, making it a great starting point. Complete or update your profile before sending connection requests. Your profile briefs potential contacts on your skills, experience, and education.
Not everyone uses LinkedIn. Email is your best bet for reaching these professionals. While those on LinkedIn expect to be networking, email can be more personal and guarded.
If you cannot find someone on LinkedIn, look for their work email online. Try searching their organization's website, checking social media, or doing an advanced Google search.
Text or phone call
This contact method should only be used for contacts you already know. Reaching out to a stranger by phone might be too invasive and off-putting for many people.
If you've built a relationship and want to move to a phone conversation, ask your contact if they'd be willing to schedule one. Used wisely, phone calls can lead to personal and insightful conversations and connections.
3. Use good LinkedIn etiquette.
LinkedIn allows you to include a brief message when requesting a connection. People who are picky about accepting connections may appreciate the personal touch and reassurance you're not spamming requests.
However, save lengthier networking messages until after your contact accepts the connection request. Leading with a long message may seem pushy. This strategy also saves you from wasting time and effort.
4. Craft and send your initial message.
Follow these networking tips to craft the most effective introduction and avoid common mistakes.
What to do when sending a first networking message
Research the person with whom you want to connect. Learn as much as you can from publicly available information, including their professional expertise, former employers, and former roles.
Gain insight into who they are, what connections you have, and what you might talk about.
Start with an introduction that covers who you are and what you do.
Tell them how you found their profile, mentioning how you heard about them in the first place or how you are connected.
Note work of theirs you've encountered and admired.
Bring up something you two have in common.
Position yourself as a desirable connection — someone who can share information and not just someone looking for favors.
Be warm and friendly to make the best first impression.
Ask a targeted question to ensure your message gets a response. You may ask about their experience with a company, inquire about the culture, ask if the company is hiring, or ask for an introduction.
Show gratitude to the person for taking the time and effort to read and respond to your message.
What not to do when sending a first networking message
Do not start by asking for a job or an interview. Ask for advice or insight.
Avoid giving unsolicited advice. It may come off pretentious, presumptuous, or even offensive.
Do not send your resume in the initial contact. Instead, wait until they request it or tell you where to send it.
Don't ramble. You do not want to waste your contact's time or confuse them.
Maintain a friendly and conversational tone. Formal language (like "Dear madame") could come across as unnatural.
Avoid requesting time-consuming favors.
Ask questions the person can answer without a large amount of effort. Think of things they can answer off the top of their head.
Seek advice in the person's area of expertise.
When contacting dormant ties, be sure to address your loss of connection.
5. Continue making conversation.
The next stage of the conversation should proceed as you see fit. You want to continue to show gratitude and thank them for whatever advice or help they have provided. The conversation may find a natural ending at this point, but you could also keep it going if you think it makes sense.
Just be respectful of their time and avoid drawing the conversation out unnecessarily. If you can, offer a way to return the favor. You should also touch base every so often afterward to maintain the connection.
Networking message examples
Below are templates for an initial networking message to a stranger or acquaintance. Adapt or change the language as you like — these are meant to inspire, not restrict.
To a stranger
Hi (name)! Thanks for connecting. I wanted to reach out because I saw you're a (role) at (company), and that you started working on their team within the past few months. Just like you do currently, I'm also very interested in pursuing a (type of role). I'd love to be able to bring (#) years of (short explanation of experience) to a (type of role).
(You can also briefly expand on having an interest in the industry they work in or an interest in the specific impact they're making.)
I'd be so grateful to learn more about your experience at (company). Have you enjoyed working there so far?
Thanks for connecting! I wanted to reach out because I saw you're a (role) at (company) and noticed we had a bunch of mutual connections (or, you could mention that you both went to the same school or happen to have a specific connection in common). I've actually been interested in (company) for years, due to (brief explanation). Based on my professional experiences in (brief mentioning of skills and relevant roles), I believe I could provide significant value to (company) as well!
Do you know if (company) is open to hiring at the moment? If so, I would be interested in chatting further with the right person!
I look forward to hearing back.
To an acquaintance
Hey (name)! I hope you've been well! I'm excited to reach out because I've been in the midst of my job search, and I saw an opening at (the company they work at) that I'm very interested in applying to. When I was looking up info about (company) on LinkedIn, I saw that you've been a (role) there! Have you enjoyed working at (company)?
I hope you've been well! I wanted to reach out because I know you work in (type of role) at (company), and I've been seeing a ton of potential opportunities pop up there. I'd love to learn more about their (department-type) department and would be interested in applying!
I'm looking for a role where I can (brief explanation of your ideal role). (Company) seems like a great place for that, especially because (short explanation).
Have you enjoyed working in their (type of department) department so far? And do you know if they're open to remote workers?
Looking forward to catching up!
I hope you had a relaxing (holiday). I wanted to reach out because I'm currently on the (role-type) job hunt, and I was excited to see that you worked at (company)! I've actually been following them for a while - I'm very interested in (what you like about the company).
Do you know if (company) is open to hiring at the moment? If so, I'd love to get in touch with the right person! I'd be interested in roles that pertain to my background: (short description of background).
Looking forward to hearing back.
As with many tasks, the most difficult part of networking is starting. Networking will gradually become more natural until you master it.
With enough time and effort, networking it will pay off in your personal and professional life.
This article was reviewed by Brian Nichols
Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college and received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college. Brian now lives in Kansas City and works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He's passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed.
Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.