Cornell University

Build a Network


Networking opportunities occur on a daily basis and can include a brief conversation with someone on an elevator to an arranged meeting with a professional. There are many ways to develop your list of potential networking contacts. Begin by identifying all the people whom you come in contact with through your activities. These can include:

  • Your friends, classmates, their parents and family members, neighbors.
  • Your relatives and extended family.
  • Former and current employers and co-workers.
  • Members and alumni of professional associations, clubs, and organizations.
  • Coaches, staff, faculty, or academic advisors.
  • Alumni of any schools you’ve attended.

You will have a better chance of talking or meeting with someone when you have been referred by a mutual contact. You also want to ask these people for other contacts who may be able to help you. Keep in mind that some of these contacts may be able to help you directly, while others may be able to refer you to someone else who can help. For each person and each person to whom you are referred, identify the type of information or advice that he or she might have that will help your career development.


Don’t discount the many informal networking opportunities that happen each day. Initiate conversations with others in the elevator, waiting in line, riding on the bus, during half-time at a sporting event, or when they are seated near you at meals or in class. These can turn from random meetings, to acquaintances, to friends and/or contacts. There are also many events sponsored by Cornell Career Services (CCS) to make networking connections with staff, alumni, employers and fellow students. Update your Cornell Handshake profile to indicate you wish to receive CCS emails, and then read the emails to take advantage of the workshops, career fairs, alumni panels/presentations, and other networking events.

Expand Your Network

After you create an initial list of people with whom you want to discuss your career plans, form the habit of looking for additional opportunities to build your network further.

  • Attend campus career events and fairs, alumni presentations, homecoming/family weekend.
  • Introduce yourself to any guest speakers you encounter on campus.
  • Obtain an internship and maintain contact with colleagues and supervisors.
  • Take advantage of job-shadowing programs.
  • Identify contacts by researching LexisNexis, industry/trade publications, employer websites, alumni magazines, and library resources.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile; connect to your contacts and join groups as appropriate.