Developing a Professional Network
Without knowing it, you are already an expert at making contact with people you know or don’t know. If you apply this concept of meeting people and maintaining relationships to a professional setting and purpose, you have what is called “networking” or developing contacts.
Here are some ways to build your professional network:
1. Start with people you know. Think of family members, friends, former professors/TAs and coaches, work supervisors, neighbors, and anyone else you know who may be able to help. Let them know what type of contacts you are looking for. Even if your uncle doesn’t work in marketing, he may have an acquaintance who does. Try to be as specific as possible: rather than saying you are looking for “anything”, give them a couple different industries, skills, or locations that can help them think of particular people to refer you to.
2. Tap into the Princeton alumni community. Thousands of alumni around the world are available for you to consult when you are making decisions about your major, graduate or professional school, or career. These are the people who have walked where you have walked, and they are often eager to “give back” to Princeton by helping you with career advice and referrals.
Alumni Careers Network (ACN): a highly searchable database of about 5000 alumni who have volunteered to provide advice about careers, majors, and finding jobs/internships. This is the place to start, as these alumni have specifically opted in to give advice.
TigerNet (through the Alumni Association): The full Princeton Alumni Directory is useful if you have specific employers in mind. Use the “Custom Search” for employment information. You may need to contact many more individuals through the Directory to get a good response as most of them have not specifically offered to give career advice. The list of regional alumni associations can be useful if you are looking for alumni in other countries or regions of the U.S. Contact the leadership of each to get information on social events, especially to meet alumni during the summer or on breaks. Sign up for discussion groups, including the popular career-networking one.
3. Reach out to other people you don’t know but who may be interested in talking with you. Potential employers and colleagues in your field of interest are always interested in developing new contacts. Expand your network through professional associations. There is at least one professional association for every career and industry imaginable. Many groups offer mentoring programs, conferences, job boards, and free resources on their websites.