How to Network Online - Securing Internships and Jobs

Networking is all about building professional relationships with people. It’s a skill that is not formally taught but is extremely beneficial. Building a strong network is a great way to find new opportunities for professional development, get career advice or even secure an internship or job.


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Utilise Social Media

Social media is one of the easiest ways to find people you want to network with. The main platform I recommend for networking is LinkedIn as it’s made for professional networking specifically, however you may also find people on other social media apps such as Instagram. It’s important that you work on building a strong profile on LinkedIn. Make sure you add relevant experiences and skills to your profile. This will make it easier for people with similar interests to connect with you online.


Reach Out to People

If you’re looking to learn more about a particular field, you’ll need to reach out to people with experience in that field. Reaching out can be quite scary if you’ve never done it before, however, if you send a genuine message to people of interest, you’d be surprised by how many people will respond to you. The first step is finding people to contact. If you’re interested in an industry or job role, just search on LinkedIn and so many people will appear in the results. If you’re not sure where to begin when contacting people, you can filter your search to alumni of your university as you already have one thing in common that you can talk about.


Once you’ve come across somebody you would like to connect with, the next step is actually reaching out to them. Before sending a message, research their background, have a look at their LinkedIn profile and tailor your message to them so they know exactly why you’re contacting them. Here’s an example of a brief and direct message template that you can use to initiate a conversation with someone new:


Hi [name],


My name is [name] and I’m [statement about your background/occupation e.g. 3rd year medical student at UCL] with an interest in [your interest]. I was wondering if it would be possible to have a quick chat with you about your role as [job role] as it is a role that I would love to gain more insight into.


Best wishes,


[name]


Lastly, do not be afraid of being ignored. Not everybody you reach out to is going to respond to you - do not take it personally, they may simply be too busy.


Attend Events

With a shift towards online events, networking opportunities are a lot more accessible. You can find events through university societies, LinkedIn and even by searching on Eventbrite. The key is to be an active audience member where possible. Interact with the speakers and participate in Q&A sessions. If you meet someone who you enjoyed speaking to or who gave you great advice, ask for the best way to stay in touch with them. Majority of the time, this will be through LinkedIn. Once you have a way to stay in touch, make sure you message them on the same day as the event or within the next few days. This means they are more likely to remember you and shows that you were truly engaged when you met them.


Follow Up

Following up is the aspect of networking that I am currently trying to improve. It’s very easy to meet someone once at an event, get good advice and then never speak to them again. However, networking is all about building relationships. Following up and maintaining regular contact is very beneficial as it means that you may be one of the first people someone thinks of when a new opportunity arises. If you’ve had a conversation with someone that you found very insightful, contact them to express gratitude. It’s very difficult to give a specific guide on how to follow up as it really depends on what you have spoken about. Here are some examples of easy ways you can follow up:


  1. Ask questions that you may not have had a chance to ask when you first spoke

  2. Send them information (e.g. an article) related to your previous conversation

  3. If someone recommended a book to you, let them know your thoughts on the book once you’ve had a chance to check it out

  4. Let them know about an event that you think they would enjoy

  5. Respond to their LinkedIn updates or other social media posts (Remember not to force these interactions - you do not need to respond to every single post they make. Respond to content that genuinely interests you.)

  6. If they gave you advice on how to gain more experience and you acted on it, let them know how things are going

  7. Update them on any achievements or opportunities that they may have helped you get


So how often should you follow up with someone to maintain a good relationship?


The frequency at which you follow up is really going to vary depending on the person, but checking in around 3 times a year is a good start. I recommend following up at least once to see if a relationship can develop naturally. Remember you do not have to do this with absolutely everyone you meet at an event. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to networking, so if you spoke to ten people at an event but found one person particularly engaging, focus on maintaining a good relationship with that person.



Be Organised

If you find that you’re reaching out to a lot of people on LinkedIn or meeting a lot of people at events, it may be worth keeping track of who you’re connecting with. You can use a spreadsheet or an app such as Notion to make sure you know who you’ve reached out to, who has responded and who you may need to chase up. Additionally, you can write some notes on what you discussed with each person making it easier to generate talking points for when you next message them. Below is an example of a format you can use to stay organised when networking:


Additionally, if you find networking time consuming, you can dedicate a specific time on your calendar to networking. For example, you can schedule 30 minutes a week to make sure you check your LinkedIn inbox, reach out to new people or send follow up messages.


Although networking can be nerve-wracking, the more you reach out to new people the more confident you will become. I hope these tips help you to start expanding your network. If you need any more advice on this topic, do reach out to us. Good luck!



Written by Honey Ajisefini (Co-founder of The Black & Forth Platform)

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