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From Newbie to Networker - A Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Networking

Aditi Sharma


Ronak Shah

Imagine a room filled with people you don't know, each engaged in conversations, sharing stories and exchanging business cards. For quite a few, this situation can evoke a subtle feeling of nervousness.

Networking for beginners can be a daunting experience. The thought of striking up conversations with strangers, making a lasting impression, and building valuable connections can make anyone feel nervous and reticent. It's crucial to understand what networking is and your 'why' before delving into how to make networking better for you.

Starting a new career or looking for an internship means developing networking skills. What are networking skills, you may ask? Networking skills involve the capability to start and nurture professional relationships. These skills not only open doors to opportunities but also help access guidance and advance your career. By preparing and practicing diligently, you can become more comfortable and skilled in networking.

The best reason to network is to give as much as you get. “I found that being genuinely interested in the company and their problems is the most effective way to get their attention rather than talking about yourself from the get-go. The more you give them a chance to explain their gaps and seek a way to fill that, regardless of it being beneficial to you, makes them like you and want to talk more to you," says Ronak Shah MSM '24. 

Networking is the cornerstone of personal and professional growth. It's not just about collecting business cards or LinkedIn connections; it's about building relationships that can open doors to opportunities you might never have discovered otherwise.

How to Begin Networking

The good news is that networking doesn't require a special personality. It's a learnable skill that gets easier with practice.

To network well, we should divide it into the before, during and after stages and then strategize.

Before Networking: Setting your intention

“I talked with small companies first to refine my pitch and get some confidence." - Samarth Bansal MSBAIM ‘24.

Clarify Your Goals: Before attending any networking event or reaching out to professionals, take some time to clarify your objectives. Are you looking for career advice, job opportunities or industry insights? Do you aim to work in finance, marketing, supply chain management or entrepreneurship? Knowing your goals will help you focus your networking efforts and find the right networking opportunities. As a prospective student at Daniels School of Business, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your career goals. 

Research Your Field: Stay informed about the latest trends, developments, and key players in your field. This knowledge will not only make you more confident during networking but also help you engage in meaningful conversations.

Research Alumni Success: Daniels School of Business at Purdue University has a strong alumni network. Before enrolling, research the achievements of notable alumni. This can inspire you and provide insights into potential career paths within your field of interest.

Connect with Career Services: Engage with the school’s career services, attend the workshops and alumni panels they offer for students to build connections while in the program. 

Craft an Elevator Pitch: Craft a concise and engaging elevator pitch. This brief introduction to yourself should communicate who you are, what you're passionate about and what you hope to achieve in your field. Practice it until it flows naturally. When crafting an elevator pitch, define your goal, know your audience, open with an engaging hook, introduce yourself, communicate your unique value, share relevant examples, address industry pain points, offer solutions, end with a call to action, and practice for clarity and enthusiasm. Make your pitch a conversation starter that leaves a positive impression and encourages further connection.

Engage with Professors: Tap into your professors as valuable resources. Attend office hours, ask for career advice and express your interests. They may connect you with alumni or professionals in your field.

“I have added all the employer on LinkedIn that I talked with. I am planning to follow up with them after a month for any full-time opportunities in their companies.” says Samarth Bansal MSBAIM ‘24

Build an Online Presence: Make sure your online profiles, especially LinkedIn, look good and are up to date. Think of it like creating your personal brand. Since a lot of networking happens online, your profile should show where you want to go in your career and make a good impression. So, keep it neat and professional.

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Target Networking Events: Find networking events or groups that align with your interests and career goals. This could be university events, industry conferences or online forums. Choose events that suit your comfort level, whether they are in-person or virtual. Daniels School of Business often hosts career fairs where you can meet recruiters from top companies. Make sure to research the companies beforehand and ask insightful questions about internship opportunities, company culture and industry trends.

During Networking: Navigating the Conversation

Active Listening: During conversations, practice active listening. Show genuine interest in what others are saying, ask follow-up questions and make them feel valued. Networking is a two-way street.

STUDENT TIP: Think of the career fair as a starting point. “I researched the companies; went on their career sites to see the jobs they offer. Primed the resume and my elevator pitch,” says Ronak Shah, MSM ’24

Quality Over Quantity: Focus on building a few meaningful connections rather than trying to collect numerous contacts. It's not about the quantity of connections, but the quality of relationships.

Be Yourself: Authenticity goes a long way in networking. Don't try to be someone you're not. Be genuine and let your personality shine through in conversations.

Ask for Advice: People love to share their experiences and offer advice. Don't hesitate to ask for guidance or insights from experienced professionals. It can lead to valuable mentorship opportunities.

After Networking: Building and Maintaining Connections

Follow Up: After attending networking events or alumni panels, send personalized thank-you emails to those you've connected with. Express your gratitude for their insights and continue the conversation by asking for advice on your academic and career journey. This demonstrates your interest and commitment to building the connection.

Organize Contacts: Keep track of your connections, their interests and how you met them. Tools like spreadsheets or dedicated apps can help you manage your network effectively. Consider using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets for a straightforward approach to creating custom tables with details about your connections, such as their interests and how you met.

Online Networking: Online communities on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) offer groups and lists within your specialty, your interests and your alma mater. Purdue University and the Daniels School of Business foster robust communities on social media as well as on our own platform Purdue Ties. Personalize your connection requests and engage with their content. Share your achievements, projects or insights to stay on their radar.

Join Student Organizations: Most schools offer a robust variety of student organizations. Daniels School of Business offers various student clubs and organizations related to different business fields. Joining these groups while you’re still a student allows you to connect with peers who share your interests and possibly alumni who are active in these organizations.

Connect with Alumni: Tap into the shared pride of alumni.  Daniels School of Business invites alumni to speak and mentor, giving students access to experts in their field. We also host alumni events and reunions, including the Purdue Business Toast to maintain connections and expand your network. These interactions are excellent opportunities to explore potential career paths with insights from fellow experienced professionals.

Give Back: Networking is a two-way street. Offer your help, advice or support to your connections when you can. Being a resource to others strengthens your relationships.

Reflect and Adjust: Periodically review your networking strategy. Are you meeting your goals? Are there areas where you could improve? Adjust your approach as needed to continue growing your network effectively.

Building a robust network requires both patience and persistence. While networking can lead to immediate opportunities, it often takes time to nurture relationships and see the full impact. Don't be discouraged by initial setbacks or the feeling that your efforts aren't yielding instant results. Shah advises fellow students to “focus [more] on networking than the job itself and have patience."

Remember that networking is about forging authentic connections. Success in networking often comes to those who stay the course and embrace the process.


If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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