St. Bonaventure University

Building a professional network

More than 70% of jobs are obtained through some sort of career or professional networking.

Career networking is the act of building beneficial professional relationships to gain information and to meet new contacts, which helps focus career goals and tap into unadvertised job vacancies.

Networking helps you:
  • learn first-hand, current information about a job and the skills needed to be a strong candidate
  • practice conversations with other professionals in a low-stress environment, allowing you to feel more confident during real job interviews
  • receive exposure to unique jobs and personalities from many organizations, which can help you search for and find your own niche.
  • build a support system of professionals who might be able to help you in the future (and vice-versa.)

Building your network

Step 1: Know yourself and decide what you want to explore
  • What kind of work would I like to do?
  • What kind of work environment appeals to me? 
Step 2: Identify who you already know and connect with them
You know a lot more people than you think: friends, family, family of friends, friends of family, professors, former employers and co-workers. All can be helpful in getting you started.

Step 3: Increase your contact base
Now that you've identified your first ring of contacts, think about people your first ring might know and ask for an introduction. Some other ways to meet new professional network contacts include:
  • Get involved on campus. This helps you develop useful and valuable skills to market yourself and allows you to meet new students and campus community members with interests similar to yours.
  • get to know professors outside of your classes because they can be a valuable resource, as well.
  • gain relevant experience through internships, volunteering or on- and off-campus jobs. Get to know new people (colleagues and supervisors) on a professional level. For more information, visit our experiential education page.
  • Use social networking sites like LinkedIn to build an effective, professional presence. The SBU Alumni/Student Mentoring and Networking LinkedIn Group is for current students and alumni to build connections and network
  • attend professionally focused events offered on campus, in your hometown and/or a city where you'd like to live and work. The Career and Professional Readiness Center also offers various professional development events throughout the school year.
  • Join a relevant professional association and attend regional and national conferences and events to meet professionals in your field.
Step 4: Start talking
Now that you have a list of people to talk to, it's important to learn a few networking etiquette rules and tips.
  • Networking does NOT mean asking for a job. When you start talking, you are seeking to gain information about specific careers, professional contacts, and possible opportunities. You are building relationships that will serve as a solid foundation for your professional development.
  • Maintain regular (but not excessive) contact with different people in your network. Talk to everyone!
  • Share your professional interests and goals when meeting or talking with your contacts, but don't be all about yourself. Ask for and provide advice. Be willing to serve as a resource in return.
  • Be thankful. If someone does something nice for you, recognize it by thanking them! Professionally written e-mails work, but you can add a memorable, personal touch by sending a neatly hand-written thank you note to someone who helped you.
  • Help others. Introduce people you know with similar interests. If you find something that might be of interest to someone else, share it with them. They will appreciate it greatly and will be much more likely to think of you and return the favor when they know something.
  • Always be polite and respectful, especially when it comes to others people's time.

Additional networking resources

  • Our LinkedIn group
    The St. Bonaventure University Alumni/Student Mentoring and Networking group was created to connect interested alumni and students in mentoring and networking for career or professional development
  • Bonnies4Bonnies
    This is an annual career networking event, held on campus, that connects students with SBU alumni representing a broad spectrum of professional positions, from freelance writers to corporate executives. Following a keynote address, students have the opportunity to mingle and meet our alumni, and to make connections that just might lead to a job interview or a helping hand somewhere down your career path.
  • Digital Engagement Room
    This gives students access to cutting-edge virtual interviewing technology, enhancing their ability to land a key internship or vie for full-time position after college