Benefits of Networking
Do you feel like you need more information to make a decision about a future career? Nothing gives you a better sense of what a career is like than talking to someone in the field. Networking is about making connections, i.e., interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts. If you’ve ever kept in touch with a former supervisor, talked with a friend about making a career change, or made conversation with someone on a plane, you’ve participated in a form of networking. In addition to these interactions, we encourage you to utilize Tufts resources and connections to take a strategic, professional approach. You can think of networking as a form of research into career change, job search, graduate school, retirement, and much more.
Networking can help you to:
- Build confidence in communicating professionally
- Explore industries through an insider’s perspective
- Identify important skills and experiences for a particular career
- Develop personal criteria to make choices about careers
- Improve interview skills through professional conversations
- Expand your circle of connections in your field of interest
- Learn about jobs and internships with target employers
- Give back by advising others
You may have heard of some of these myths about networking. Let us put your mind at ease.
Myth: You must be extroverted to network successfully.
Fact: Networking often involves one-on-one conversations, rather than large, formal events with many people present. Those opportunities exist as well, but they are not the only form of networking.
Myth: You need to have connections and I don’t have any.
Fact: As a Tufts alum, you do have connections. You have fellow alumni, faculty, staff, families, and students; all of whom have their own personal networks to share.
Myth: No one will want to meet with me.
Fact: People love to talk about themselves and their careers. Tufts alumni volunteer to be part of our Tufts University Career Network to network with fellow jumbos.
Myth: You should only talk to people at senior levels.
Fact: Recent graduates are very familiar with entry-level positions and the interview process, so don't underestimate the value of a young or recent alum.
First Steps to Networking
An informational interview (a.k.a. career conversation) is a chat with someone who can give you an insider’s perspective on a profession, employer, or industry. These conversations allow you to:
- Talk to knowledgeable individuals about your career interests
- Research a particular career path
- Enlist expert guidance
- Share your goals
- Position yourself as a potential candidate for the future
Reaching Out Via Email or Phone
The most common way to make the first connection with a networking contact is in writing, usually via email. In some circumstances, as with a family friend or former employer, a phone call is appropriate. You’ll want to address the same things you would in writing. In both cases, your initial contact should set the stage for future conversations.
The first contact should address the following:
Who you are
- Provide a brief introduction of yourself
- Mention any referral or friend in common
Why this contact
- Indicate why you are writing to this individual in particular
- Briefly state your interests or experiences in the person’s field, organization, or location
What you want
- Request information and advice. An informational interview is not the right time to ask for an job.
- Set expectations. You are initially asking for roughly 15-30 minutes of your contact’s time on the phone or in person.
- Include how and when you will contact this person again
After sending your initial message, be sure to follow up. Usually this involves a phone call to set up a phone appointment or an in-person meeting. Never expect the person to phone you.
Here is a sample networking email. Find additional networking email and LinkedIn message examples here.
Sample Networking Email
Dear First Name,
I’m a Tufts alum, and I found your name through the Tufts University Career Network group on LinkedIn.
I notice that you’ve worked at a variety of NGOs in the Middle East. My work is also focused on the MENA region. I've recently decided to pivot into work around climate and water issues. Would you be open to a career conversation in the next couple of weeks? I'm looking for advice on how to frame my existing experience as well as express my strong interests in climate and water. I wonder if it might be possible to speak by phone or via Skype.
Thank you for considering my request.
Prepare So You Make a Good Impression
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Get ready for the informational interview as if it were an interview for a job.
- Be prepared to answer questions about yourself. Reflect on your skills, interests, and values.
- Research the industry, company, and networking contact.
- Design questions to get information about a job, company, or industry you could not find online. See the link below for samples.
- Be prompt.
- Dress as if for an actual interview.
- Be polite.
- Take notes.
- Always say ‘thank you’. See the sample below.
Sample Interview Questions
In an informational interview, you will be asking the majority of the questions. Think about what you can learn from this person and what kind of information and advice will help you in your job search. It is important to prepare your questions in advance. Have approximately 10-15 questions for a half-hour conversation.
Other questions may arise during the conversation itself, but it’s possible the person you’re interviewing will have short answers and you’ll be happy to have some extra questions to keep the conversation going.
Show Your Appreciation
Immediately following your informational interview, send an email thank you. In your email be as specific as possible. Cite particularly helpful advice from your contact, new decisions you’ve made as a result of the meeting, and/or how you plan to follow-up with next steps.
Here is a sample thank you email. See our email etiquette tips for more advice.
Sample Thank You Email
Subject line: Thank you for yesterday's career chat
Dear First Name,
I learned a great deal about (company or organization name) in our conversation yesterday and it affirmed my interest in pursuing a publishing career. I especially enjoyed hearing about your graduate studies in publishing at Columbia.
Thank you for sharing your advice and experience with me. I plan to contact (First Last Name) for information about her experience at (Company Name). Thank you so much for this referral. I’m eager to learn more about the production side of the business. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
I appreciate your assistance and your willingness to be part of the Tufts University Career Network.
Keep the Ball Rolling
Reflect on the conversation. Go back over your notes to make sure the information is clear. Also, make note of any impressions you have from the conversation.
- What did I learn from this interview?
- How does what I learned fit with my own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.?
- What more would be helpful to know?
- What plan of action should I take next?
Be sure to contact anyone your networking contact referred you to. Within the first few sentences, mention your mutual connection as well as any particular reason your original contact thought this person might be helpful to you.
Stay in touch with your networking contacts over time, keeping them up to date on your progress. If a referral or suggestion was particularly helpful, be sure to let them know.
- Where to Network: Online
Where to Network: In-person
Tufts hosts many in-person networking events. Remember, in all instances you are seeking information, ideas, and referrals, never asking for a job.
For tips on networking in-person, learn from an expert - '92 alum Alyssa Gelbard, executive career consultant, Founder & President of Point Road Group, and co-chair of the NYC Professional Women's Networking Group - In-person Networking & The Power of Tufts' Career Network
- Check out the Tufts Alumni and Friends calendar for career networking events.
- Events are often held in cities across the U.S. and internationally and are often coordinated by regional alumni chapters and shared interest groups. These groups also post networking events on their Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Examples include:
- NYC Professional Women's Networking Group
- Tufts Entrepreneurial Alumni Network
- Tufts Financial Network
- Tufts Social Impact Network
- Other great places to look for in-person networking events outside of the Jumbo Network:
- Getting Started With LinkedIn
Professional Email Etiquette
You’ve probably written countless emails in your life by now and can post, text, and tweet with the best of them. But professional correspondence is a whole new ball game. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Use a Professional Email Address
You may prefer to be known by a witty screen name, but at best you won’t be taken seriously and at worst, your email will land in a spam folder. We recommend either using your official Tufts University alumni email address or creating a professional email address with your first and last name.
Use a Formal Salutation
Professional correspondence should have a certain level of formality including a standard greeting. Unless you are invited to use a first name, it is best to address your recipient by his or her title, such as Dear Mr., Ms. or Professor. Hint: If you don’t know a recipient’s gender identity or preference, a quick Google search may help clarify. Otherwise, use Dear First and Last Name.
Lead With a Clear Subject Line
A concise and specific subject line will help your reader know exactly what to expect. If you are writing to a networking contact, you may use the subject: Career Question from Tufts alum.
Be Clear, Polite, and Succinct
Emails to networking contacts should be requests for advice or career information, rather than a job.
Before sending, review your copy and make sure that it meets these criteria:
- It is written in complete, coherent sentences
- There are no spelling errors
- No part of it is written in all caps
Sign Off with a Thank You
It is common courtesy to thank someone for his or her time and help. End your email with a “thank you” or “best” and your full name.
Boost Your Image with a Strong Email Signature
There is no exact template you have to follow, but your ultimate goal should be to clearly state who you are and how to easily contact you.
We recommend following these guidelines:
- Include essential information such as your first and last name.
- Limit your signature to 3 or 4 lines. Use colons or pipes to separate.
- Include your preferred email address and phone number.
- Include links to your social media accounts such LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure these are accounts with a professional message.
- Avoid fancy fonts, colors, graphics, and inspirational quotes.
A Few Final Thoughts:
Emails Are Forever
You cannot take back what gets sent, and without a clear tone of voice, it can be easy to sound offensive. Read your message before you send it and keep in mind that some issues are better discussed in person. If it can’t be wrapped up in a short paragraph, consider making an appointment or visiting office hours.
Patience Is a Virtue
We all like instant gratification, but everyone is busy and sometimes a reply takes more time than you’d hope. If your question or concern is time sensitive it may be appropriate to write a follow-up email, but be realistic about your expectations.
Practice Common Courtesy
If you expect timely, helpful replies, you should do the same for others. Check your email regularly, and respond as soon as you are able.
- Networking Webinars