Develop contacts and build professional relationships. Learn about new careers and organizations. Leverage your circle of connections to find the right job for you.
Networking should be a key component of your successful job search. It’s a great way to learn more about organizations and familiarize yourself with unfamiliar job titles. Recent studies show that 80% of jobs and internships are filled through networking. Here are a few things you can do to build and expand your network:
Assess and Build a Professional Network
Surrounding yourself with a network of supportive individuals while a graduate student or postdoc is important to a successful experience. Rather than trying to identify one person to provide you with everything, develop a broad network
that can serve to support you in many different areas. Use the "Assess Your Professional Network Worksheet" to evaluate your professional network, identifying multiple mentors and areas to develop.
Conduct Informational Interviews
Informational Interviews are 20-60 minute long conversations for you to ask questions, listen, and learn about organizations, career paths, and industry trends from a professional in a field of interest. This is also an excellent way to expand your network in a particular industry, and gain more nuanced information about a career or organization.
This is not the same as a job interview, so use the time to listen and learn. When you reach out to a potential contact, communicate these three things:
- Why you are reaching out: What would you like to learn about them? It is best to be brief in your explanation.
- Why THEY are the best person for you to learn from: What makes them unique in their field? What about their career, position, or work intrigues you?
- What you are asking for: How much time will you need? Do you want to meet in person, through Skype, or by phone? Offer times to meet, but indicate that you can adjust to their schedule. Ask for 20-30 minutes of their time.
Do not take it as a rejection if the contact offers to chat via phone when you requested an in-person meeting or if the contact declines outright. Remember their schedules are busy and they may be unable to take time out to meet with you at this time.
Once you have scheduled an informational interview, take time to prepare for it. Read this open letter by UCLA PhD Melanie Ho to learn more about how to prepare. Research the organization by spending time on the organization website and by doing an internet news search. Build a strong set of questions to ask when you meet with your contact, including this list of sample informational interview questions.
After you have met with the professional or alumni and had a chance to learn more about the position, industry or field, your next step is to FOLLOW UP with them by sending a thank you email. You should always thank people for their time, even if you have decided you don’t want to pursue careers in that direction. You never know where your next opportunity will come from and establishing a professional network is key to navigating successful career
choices throughout your professional life. Thanking someone for their time is the easiest way to follow up, communicates professionalism, and is an opportunity to plant seeds for future interactions.
When following up with an alumni or professional, communicate these three things:
- Thank them for their time and any specific resources, tips or contacts they shared highlighting what you had in common.
- Demonstrate how you plan to use their advice, or share additional resources that are related to your conversation.
- Do not ask for a job, or send your resume unless it was something they offered during your meeting. You are still building a relationship and asking for a job is premature.
Leverage Your LinkedIn and UCLAOne Accounts
Social media is becoming an increasingly valuable tool in successful job searches. Employers use social media to advertise job postings and to research job applicants. You can use platforms like LinkedIn and UCLAOne to research individuals and organizations, in particular UCLA alumni. Connecting with alumni will help you expand your network, and you can conduct informational interviews to learn more about their career paths, and learn industry-relevant information.
UCLAOne is UCLA’s own professional development networking tool - exclusive to UCLA students and alumni. Join for free and set up a profile. Once you’ve registered, you can search for alumni working in careers and for organizations that appeal to you. If you click on the graduation cap accompanying each profile, you will see how this alumni has offered to help fellow Bruins.
LinkedIn is currently the most recognized professional development social media platform. Build a strong LinkedIn online profile by following these tips from LinkedIn.
To find alumni on LinkedIn:
- Using the Search Bar at the top, find UCLA’s school page.
- Click See Alumni.
- Use the filters to find alumni in a specific company, function, discipline, class year, or title.
- Review alumni profiles, and send connection requests.
- Add a note when you connect identifying yourself as a fellow Bruin and briefly explain your interest in setting up a short informational interview.