You’ve probably heard it before: networking is essential to landing your dream internship or job. It also helps with choosing what job or industry you want to work in. But what exactly is networking, and how do you get started?

Networking is simply making connections with other people and sharing information. That’s it! Networking happens in a lot of ways – at structured events, through scheduled meetings, via LinkedIn, and spontaneously when you meet someone in class or at a student org meeting. We’ve provided a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Like anything you practice, you get better at networking the more you do it. So let’s get started!

Career Conversations Canvas Module

Career Conversations is a non-credit Canvas module that takes about 30 minutes to complete and will help you learn more about the value of networking. Additionally, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of finding people to network with – we’ve identified over 550 UW alumni who are ready to have one-on-one conversations with students like you about all things careers. 

Complete the module and get connected with alumni professionals who want to help you get started in your field of interest!

Enroll on Canvas

Networking in 3 Easy Steps

#1. Tell Your Story

Be prepared to communicate about yourself, your experiences, and your goals.

#2. Find People

Search your social networks, connections, event opportunities, and alumni to decide who you want to contact.

#3. Reach Out

Start the conversation and make a valuable connection. Examples provided!

#1. Tell Your Story

Networking is not a one-way street, it’s an exchange. Your network contacts want to learn about you. Plus, people can’t help you if they don’t know anything about you.

Your goal from a networking interaction, beyond gathering information, is for your contact to be able to describe you to someone else. Ideally, if you leave a positive lasting impression while building your professional network, your new contact may mention you positively to a potential employer, pass your information on to someone else, or contact you later with job leads.

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Why it's important

What’s the most important information you want them to know about you? Can you describe yourself in a few sentences? What’s the most succinct, powerful version of you? This is your opportunity to share whatever you want them to know about you. This is also sometimes called your pitch, elevator speech, personal brand, etc.

When someone says, “Tell me about yourself,” you need to be prepared with an appropriate answer. Replying, “What would you like to know?” puts the onus on the other person, which is expecting too much from them. Make it easy for the other person to ‘get’ you. Try not to assume the listener will draw all the appropriate inferences you want them to. Rattling off a succession of past jobs is not enough – you need to connect the dots and tell a story about those past experiences. If you can’t communicate interest in what you’re presenting, it’s doubtful someone else will be interested.

Think about the point you want to make, and say it. Don’t make them work for it. If you have a conclusion you want them to make about you, tell them what it is. For example, if you want them to know that you are passionate about researching inequalities in public education, then say, “I am passionate about researching inequalities in public education.”

Writing your introduction

• Past: Your name, why you chose your course of study, if you have worked/interned prior to the position you hold now and what you learned
• Present: What you are currently studying, working/interning/volunteering doing in your position and what you hope to learn and accomplish
• Future: What you hope to do in the future

Now, you try it: write a 10-15 second pitch
Write these sentences up as a very short paragraph that describes who you are and what you’re best at. The paragraph should be a blend of strong personal qualities with specific job experience. Also – be genuine!


Here’s an example:

“My name is ___ and I am a current student at UW-Madison where I am studying ___. I chose my area of study because ____ and I hope to utilize my skills from ___, ____, and ____ [these blanks would be filled with examples of experiences from interning, volunteering, study abroad, student activities, course projects, etc.] to attain my first position [or internship] in ___ area/company.”

Now give it a try!

#2. Find People

Networking is all about connecting with people who know about the kind of work you are interested in. Knowing these ‘insiders’ will give you access to the sort of information and advice that you can’t get anywhere else.

To keep track of your network, you’ll need to create different kinds of lists for the different kinds of people you interact with. For everyone on these lists you’ll want to keep track of contact information, how you first met, when you last made contact with this person and when you want to make contact again, and notes. You can customize as you like, but most basically, can start with the following four lists.

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A: People with hiring authority

Make a list of anyone you know who has hiring authority, no matter the company or industry they work in. The people on this list could give you a job or an internship, and if the job you want doesn’t exist they could probably create it for you. They might have titles like CEO, President, Founder, Executive Director, etc. It’s unlikely that you’ll have very many names on your A-list, especially in the early stages of your search, and that’s fine. If you come into contact with an A-list individual, that’s great (don’t waste the opportunity!), but don’t worry if this isn’t a huge part of your job search.

B: People who know about the kind of work you’d like to do

Make a list of people who currently or recently worked at the companies you are targeting and people who are working/have worked in the sort of job you are looking for. Identify occupations, fields, and companies you want to learn more about. It’s normal that this list would have people in entry-level or junior positions, and that’s often really helpful! After all, that’s the level you’re going to start at. There are lots of ways to target your search:

• Use LinkedIn to find UW-Madison alumni and companies of interest [more at a separate doc]
• Research and join professional associations related to your field, attend conferences if you can
• Read about your industry and companies of interest in trade publications and on their web sites
• Attend lectures or other events organized by the companies that you’re interested in. This is easier in some locations and industries than others, but it can be a really valuable way to understand the priorities and culture of an organization

Your main goal in building your network is to increase the size and quality of this list, and then connect with people on the list to make yourself a better candidate for jobs and internships. When we say ‘connect’ we don’t mean asking them to find a job for you – we mean informational interviews!

C: People who want to help you

This list is for anyone you know who wants to help you in your job search. Think about former supervisors or colleagues, volunteer coordinators, coaches, mentors, friends, and even family. Basically this list should include anyone who thinks you are awesome (in any way) and will give you some time.

Here are some ideas:
• Parents and relatives
• Friends and their families
• Roommates and neighbors
• Family friends
• Professors and advisors
• Present and former colleagues and supervisors
• Alumni
• Student organizations

The caveat is that most of these folks will need some help FROM you in order to provide anything TO you – they’ll need you to tell them what your interests are, what you’re looking for and how they can help you get there. If you ask your uncle to give you some ideas about jobs out of college, it’s likely you’ll get some pretty random advice that might not be all that helpful. But if you tell your uncle about your interest in content marketing strategy, along with the type of company or job you’d like to know more about, then he’ll be able to place you in his own network. Maybe he’ll be able to recommend an organization to check out. Maybe he knows someone who does similar work and would be willing to make an introduction. Or maybe not…but you don’t know unless you ask, as specifically as possible.

D: Organizations involved in the work you’d like to do

Make a list of any organization that is active in the field you are thinking about – any organization that does the work you’d like to do, or funds it, or regulates it, or researches and writes about it, etc. Try to think specifically about your field and broadly about the type of organizations involved in it.

For example, say your field is international development, and you’re interested in is providing access to safe, clean drinking water Central Africa. You could identify organizations (either international or local) that are actually delivering water, digging wells, etc. Or organizations that are funding that work. Or governmental or non-government organizations regulating the work. Or government agencies that work there. And so on.

How do you find these organizations? Some are in the news, some you might learn about from class or professors (they’re in your network too), some you might learn from more ‘insider’ sources like professional journals, and some you’ll learn about from your network contacts. The point is, there are many ways to find out more information. You just have to be willing to put in the work.

It’s likely that your B-list and O-list will have a lot of overlap – you’ll identify a person for your B-list and then add their place of work to your O-list, and vice versa. You’ll quickly find that in most every field, there are organizations where lots of people with very different job titles and duties all work together. The more you can use the insider information of people on your B-list to understand what these various jobs are like, the better.


This resource gives people the opportunity to network with others from various industries, connect with people to build a network, and follow employers and alumni to gather information. You can also build your personal brand and show off your skills and experience.

Need help creating your LinkedIn profile? Check out this helpful guide right from the source.

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Finding UW Alumni on LinkedIn

Go to

Here you’ll see a searchable, sortable list of every UW-Madison alum who has a LinkedIn profile. You can search for particular people by name, job function or title, and by company. You can also limit your results to certain ranges of years; this can be helpful if you want to find recent graduates, for example.

Try adding some specific filters for location and job function (What they do). You’ll notice that as you add a filter, the total number of alumni in your search goes down and the horizontal bars update themselves. So as you search for alumni in Milwaukee who work in sales (for example), the list of top employers will update itself.

Pro tip: this is a great way to identify a shortlist of companies to target in your own job search.

If you select one of those companies, the list of alumni below the bar graphs will also update itself. LinkedIn will display these alumni in order of connection strength, meaning that your direct connections will show up first, then your 2nd-degree connections, then 3rd degree, etc. In order for this tool to work well for you, it’s really important to have as many connections as possible! Start with family, friends, professors, peers, and employers, and then build from there.

Pro tip: if you’re logged in to LinkedIn and you visit someone’s profile, they’ll be able to see that you viewed it. If you don’t know them yet this can seem weird, but there is a way to creep on their profile without them knowing. Just open an Incognito browser window and search the name of the person and their company – their LinkedIn profile will probably be near the top of the search results, and you can view it there without them knowing that you were lurking.

Now, clear the search to get back to the whole list of alumni. Click the ‘Next >’ button on the top-right corner of the page. Choose your major from the list to narrow the search. If you can’t find your major in the list, try typing in some portion of it in the search box, hit enter, and then choose it from the list (e.g. search for ‘Jewish,’ then click on ‘Jewish/Judaic Studies’ in the list, then click on the blue box to remove ‘Jewish’ from the filter list).

Click the ‘< Previous’ button to return to the prior view. You’re now viewing a list of the top locations, companies, and job functions of alumni from your particular major. This can be really helpful to get a sense of what sorts of jobs your major might lead to, as well as giving you a more specific connection to any alumni you might want to reach out to.

Adding multiple filter items from different lists (i.e. a location and a company) will usually make your list shrink because you’re showing alumni who fit BOTH criteria. Adding multiple filter items from the same list (i.e. two locations) will make your list grow because you’re showing alumni who fit EITHER criteria.

So, you’ve found some alumni you’d like to learn from…now, what do you do? Contact them! We’ll help you write that message or prepare for that phone call. Learn everything you need to know about making contact with your fellow Badgers in the Reach Out section!

Upcoming Networking Events

Ready to try networking?

Check out our upcoming events where you can practice your networking skills while meeting professionals and alumni in your field of interest!

To make sure you are prepared, visit the Networking At An Event section!

#3. Reach Out

Networking On Your Own

Reaching out on your own is the best way to contact a specific person and form a valuable connection. Your goal is to schedule a meeting with your contact, preferably in person, but chatting by phone or Zoom can work great if needed. This meeting is often called an informational interview, but in this case, you’re the one asking the questions! The purpose is to obtain information, explore industries or companies, get job-search advice from people working in the field, and to build relationships – not to get a job. 

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How to reach out

The way you initiate contact will depend on how well you know the person. A phone call may be appropriate for someone you speak with regularly, or an email for contacts with whom you are less familiar.  

The basic elements of your introduction should include:

Who are you? Introduce yourself, begin telling your story and identify your school and major.

What do you have in common? Did they attend UW-Madison? Did they have the same major as you? Do they know of any of your professors? Do you have a shared contact? Were the members of the same student organization?

What sets you apart? Share some of your previous experiences or accomplishments. Describe your internship, research, volunteer, or work experiences.

What are you seeking? Are you looking for insights about their career path and the field through an informational interview? Are you seeking an internship, or job search advice in your field of interest? Are you hoping to learn more about their specific organization?

Reaching Out Checklist

  • Keep it short and concise; 1 – 2 paragraphs at most.
  • Be polite and professional – remember that you are asking for their time.
  • Be mindful of grammar and spelling – have someone proofread your email before sending.
  • Share a little about yourself… “I’m a sophomore communication arts student at UW-Madison, and I am interested in learning more about the digital marketing field.”
  • Express your genuine interest in wanting to learn more about the industry and your contact’s academic and career path.
  • Create a specific subject line. For example: “Badger interested in Public Health” or “Informational Meeting for Student Interested in Consulting.” Vague or nonspecific subject lines, such as “Hi!” or “Request” may decrease the likelihood of your contact responding.
  • Send this email from your official address.
  • In your request, include the anticipated length of the interview (30 minutes) and your contact information for following up.
  • Be mindful of timeliness – reach out early so that you can accommodate their schedule. You might have to wait a few weeks before they are free to meet.
  • Do not ask for an internship/job! The purpose of an informational interview is to have an opportunity to learn more about your contact’s academic and career path, better understand an industry or company of interest, and get advice on your next steps toward success.

Sample Email

Dear Ms. ABC,

I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a major in Economics. I recently came across your name on the Badger Bridge alumni directory and was excited to see that you work in Equity Research at Fidelity Investments. I am emailing you to see if you would be willing to meet with me briefly (about 30 minutes) to discuss your experiences in the field. It would be wonderful to gain your perspective on the industry and learn about day-to-day activities of a research analyst with your firm.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this email, and I hope we can set up a time to speak next week when it is convenient for you. I may be reached at 608.262.3921 or

Best regards,
Bucky Badger

Sample LinkedIn Message

These Messages should be attached as a note when requesting to connect with someone on LinkedIn.  Connection request notes are required to be under 300 characters long.

“Hi Lawrence! I am a Biology student at UW-Madison. I am interested in the Finance industry and I would love to learn more about your career path as a UW Biology alum.  Do you have time to chat by phone to share some of your expertise and advice? Hope to hear from you soon! -Bucky”

Networking At An Event

Our networking events give you a chance to meet with professionals who have volunteered their time to support your career progress. These alumni can help you gain insight into different occupations, industries, and specific employers, and can give you advice on your job search. Make the most of this opportunity to meet people who can help you find internships, land your first job, and understand more about various career paths.

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Before the Event

It’s always important to prepare for an event by reviewing these items:

  • Reflect on your interests, skills, and experience
  • Try to identify some occupations, industries, and employers you’d like to learn more about
  • Be prepared to talk about yourself –you’ll need to help your mentor help you, and they won’t be able to do that without knowing something about you
  • Research the attendees using the information provided on the event web page and other sources (LinkedIn, company web sites, etc.)
  • Set goals to speak to a certain number of new people or people in a particular type of role
  • Prepare some specific questions
  • Don’t worry about bringing a resume–you shouldn’t expect to be offered a job or internship at this event, and there won’t be time for an in-depth resume review

Go with a friend, but don’t just talk to them – come together but do your own networking and learning.

Oh, and consider doing some power poses and get in the right mindset to make the most of the event!

During the Event

Here are some tips on how to make the most out of networking at the event:

  • Be prepared to initiate conversation, but plan to spend more time listening than talking
  • Remember this is a conversation to share information and advice, not a job interview
  • Ask specific questions, but allow for spontaneous discussion
  • Take notes on important information
  • Talk to someone you had not planned to –this could be someone with a different academic background or someone doing a job you’ve never considered
  • Don’t speak only to other students at the event – you’re here to connect to alumni!
  • Before leaving a conversation, don’t forget to:
    • Thank the mentor for his or her time and advice
    • Write down any contact information or follow-up items you discussed
    • Get permission to use the mentor’s name when contacting anyone they recommended
  • Enjoy yourself and have fun –networking doesn’t have to be awkward!

Sample Questions to Ask

You won’t have time to discuss all of these questions, but you can use them as a basis for a short conversation or to help you think of some questions of your own.

About the person:

  • What is your educational background? How did you get started in this field
  • What was your career path like? How did you get your present job
  • How did you know where to start looking and what steps you needed to take
  • What would you change about your career path if you could
  • Where do you see yourself going from here?

About the job and workplace:

  • What are some of the problems and decisions you are likely to face in a day or week
  • What are the greatest rewards and challenges of your job? What is most and least satisfying
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacation, etc.
  • How do you determine what tasks you will work on and how to structure your time?
  • How would you characterize your work relationships or environment (formal, informal, etc.)
  • Do you work primarily alone or in collaboration with others? With whom?

About the career field and industry:

  • What are the employment trends in your field or company
  • What is the salary range for the various levels in this field
  • What type of professional development or training opportunities are there
  • What do you wish you would have known prior to entering this field
  • What credentials, educational degrees, licenses, etc. are required for entry into this field
  • What kind of skills and prior experiences would be good background for someone starting out
  • What are some skills that have proven important in your job that you did not anticipate
  • What is the profile of someone who is successful starting in this field?
  • Where should I look to learn more about this field or this job?

Advice to you:

  • What skills or experiences will I need to develop to make myself more competitive
  • What professional associations or organizations should I know about
  • What advice do you have for me as I try to break into this field
  • Are there people you think I would benefit from talking to
    • Can I use your name when I contact them?
  • If I have any questions could I stay in contact with you?

After the Event

Always make sure to follow up after an event using these strategies below:

  • Thank the mentor within 48 hours, mentioning one or two things that were really helpful
  • Offer them something of value related to your conversation (a link to an interesting article, help with a problem they mentioned, an introduction to someone they might want to meet, etc.
  • Ask them to keep you in mind if they come across any other useful information for your participation!

Next Steps

You did it! You thought about your goals, found some people to connect with, and reached out on your own or at an event. But networking isn’t over yet! Like any relationship, effective networking relies on continuing to stay in touch. That means you should reach out to your contacts every so often to keep the conversation going.

If you are still looking for help or guidance about how to network like a champ, remember to try our Career Conversations Canvas module and make an advising appointment! We look forward to connecting with you.