Counselling and career development


What is networking?

Networking means developing a broad list of contacts - people you've met through various social and business functions - and using them to your advantage when you look for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network. Networking involves the cultivation of trust and confidence. Making "contacts" without following up or genuine interest will most likely lead to dead ends (and a large collection of worthless business cards). An initial meeting or contact with someone does not establish a connection unless there is a follow-up of some kind.

Where do I start?

The best place to start developing your network is with your family, friends, and neighbours - and with their family, friends, and neighbours, but don't stop there. Talk to co-workers, colleagues in your industry, and those you meet at industry gatherings, such as trade shows and conferences. Talk with former co-workers, bosses, and teachers. Also use online social networking sites such as LinkedIn to connect with people who are working in the industries you are interested in.

What do I need to start?

The key to successful networking is to decide to put the energy needed to make it work:

  1. First, you need to get organised (for example, keeping a business card file, written notes or an electronic database).
  2. Second, you need to stay in contact (for example, through regular phone calls, e-mail, and holiday greetings).
  3. Third, you need to set goals for yourself (such as five new contacts per week).

Steps to successful networking

Develop a firm grasp of job search basics

This means updating your skills by researching company information, writing letters to request information, going to interviews, and writing cover letters and thank you notes.

Conduct a self-assessment

An honest review of your strengths and weaknesses is vital. You should also make some decisions relating to the types of jobs you want and the types of companies and industries that interest you.

Prepare a considered CV

If you don't already have a CV, now is the time to develop one.

Decide how to organise your network

For example, are you going to have a file with business cards and notes, an electronic database or spreadsheet, or use online platforms such as LinkedIn to organise your professional network?

Communicate with your network

It is important to stay in touch with your network, which you can easily do by phone, mail, or email.

Initiate informational interviews

Remember that the purpose of the informational interview is to obtain information, not to get a job.

Follow up with your network

The key is keeping your network informed of your situation and thanking them for their efforts. Never take your network for granted.

Attend workshops

Contact the Unisa centre closest to you to ask about possible career development workshops that will be offered. If you cannot attend a workshop in person, download the Networking workshop presentation.

Last modified: 2023/08/07