Building Your Network & Using LinkedIn

The best way to explore potential career choices is by speaking and networking with individuals who work in the field. Networking will help you to learn first-hand about your chosen profession by asking questions about tasks, business environment and educational background. Networking can be done anywhere: a career fair, listening to a classroom speaker or at a family picnic. This is a guide to help you get started.

What is Networking? 

Networking refers to the process of building and maintaining professional relationships to help you enhance your career development and aid in the job search process. Networking is a valuable strategy for anyone looking for a job because many positions are found through personal connections like family, friends, alumni and past employers. 

Interested in expanding your network to help with a future job search, but not sure where to start? Try connecting with these people to broaden your network. 

Schedule an appointment with your career advisor or utilize drop-in hours to meet 1:1 to discuss a custom networking strategy. It is helpful to prepare ahead of your meeting by thinking about the types of positions you’re interested in. We also highly recommend having a LinkedIn profile before your meeting.

Simply put – your pitch is a way to explain who you are to another person. It’s your chance to set the tone for a conversation and share your highlight reel.

A quality pitch should be short and sweet, describing who you are and what you want to do in a creative way. In most cases, employers or individuals you’re networking with are there because they want to learn more about you. They want to hear your stories about accomplishments, classroom contributions, internships, sports and more.

Keys to a Strong Pitch

  • Tell them a bit about yourself: what do you do, who are you? Use specific examples!
  • How can your skills be transferable to this position / industry? How can you benefit a specific organization?
  • Include a long term goal you’d like to reach, skills, confidence, goals, personal motivation and passion for the industry.
  • Talk about your volunteering, sports, on or off campus jobs, internships and classroom projects as they relate to the industry or position.

Ask Yourself

  • Who do I want to help or inspire?
  • Who benefits from my work?
  • Why do I enjoy the work I’m doing?

As you continue to grow and develop your skills, revisit your pitch and update it to reflect the most updated version of who you are.

Example in a Networking Scenario

“Hello, my name is Kate Smith. Our mutual friend, Ryan, suggested you would be a good person for me to speak with about public relations. I am graduating from Merrimack College this year with a degree in Communication & Media. I am interested in learning about issues and trends in the field, how you got to where you are today and what advice you would have for a new graduate trying to break into the field.”

LinkedIn is a source to help expand your network and connect with people in your field about opportunities you’ve been a part of within your career. It’s an excellent tool to start networking with friends, family and alumni when you are ready to job search. 

  • Don’t know how to make the most of your LinkedIn Profile? Watch this helpful video.
  • Make an appointment with your career advisor for help with your LinkedIn profile.
  • Join the Merrimack Alumni Group which is a great way to start to build your network. You can connect with thousands of alumni who work in all different fields and may be able to connect you with people in your field.
  • You can also use LinkedIn to search for jobs.

Your LinkedIn Profile is an extension of your resume – it can speak to all potential employers instead of just one. You can go into more detail about skills, projects, interests, certifications and more. You can seek out endorsements and recommendations to further support your skills and abilities. It also allows you to connect with professionals and employers in a more genuine way.

Fast Facts

  • Profiles with a headshot get 21x more views on average
  • Profiles with 2+ positions are up to 36x more likely to be found by recruiters (includes internships and part-time positions)
  • If you list 5+ skills, you’ll get up to 17x more profile views
  • 75% of hiring managers look at LinkedIn profiles to learn about a candidate
  • LinkedIn members with LinkedIn Learning certificates are 9% more likely to get hired than a member without one

Each semester, the O’Brien Center for Career Development hosts industry specific events designed to help you get a better understanding of what it is like to work in the field of your choice. You can visit our current list of events to learn more. Some of these events are centered around building your network and practicing your networking skills. Others will more heavily focus on recruiting by employers.

There may be opportunities to attend events off-campus and hosted by other organizations. This could be a conference, webinar or employer-hosted event to name a few. It is highly encouraged to attend with a buddy and use all of the skills you have honed on campus to continue building your network.

An informational interview is a conversation that gives you the opportunity to learn more about a particular position, company or career path in the field you hope to pursue. They can help to open the door to future job opportunities by expanding your network of contacts. Ultimately, the information gathered will help you get a better understanding of what a job in the field you’re interested in pursuing is like and if you think it will be a good fit for you. It is also an opportunity to ask for feedback on your resume and job search strategies.

You will learn about: 

  • The day-to-day of the duties of their position
  • What steps they took to pursue their career
  • How you can stand out as an applicant in the field

Informational Interview Timeline

Spend time looking through LinkedIn or other groups of people you’ve met to determine who may be a good person to connect with. It can be beneficial to meet with multiple people at different positions and levels across various companies.

Make a plan for who you want to interview – not everyone will respond to you, having back-ups is recommended.

Requesting an interview with an industry professional through networking is a great opportunity to learn more about a position that you are interested in and make your network even bigger. Now is a great time to use the student-card and request with folks you’ve always wanted to meet.

How do you ask for an informational interview?

  • It is typical to ask for an informational interview through an email if you have one or you can use LinkedIn.
  • An example message could be: “I was hoping to briefly meet to speak with you and ask a few questions about your position and career path. Would there be a convenient time to meet with me in the next two weeks. I have availability during these times….”

Once you hear back from the other person, it’s important for you to confirm the official date, time, and modality/location you will host the informational interview.


  • If you’re meeting in person – make sure to share / obtain directions and information on parking or transportation options. Plan ahead for how you will make it to the location on time and how long it will take you to get there. It’s recommended you swap phone numbers in the case that you’re delayed for any reason.
  • If you’re meeting on Zoom – make sure you provide the Zoom Link and you have the latest version of Zoom downloaded on your device prior to the start of the meeting.
  • If you have a list of questions you plan to ask – provide them to the other person for their review.

Do your research on the person you’re interviewing and customize questions to their experience. Use a combination of LinkedIn, their company website and search engines to find out more information. Determine where you may have mutual connections or interests to help break the ice.

  • Prepare your questions – you may not have time to ask every question. It’s important to prioritize which ones you need answered and which are optional. As the person arranging the interview – it is your responsibility to come with questions.
  • Be open to questions from the other person too about you and your experiences. It could be a great time to share your pitch and ask for feedback!
  • Treat this interview like a real, formal job interview. Arrive early and dress professionally for the setting.
  • If you requested to meet in person, typically you would offer to pay for coffee or a treat at the location you selected. It is okay to politely accept if the other person insists on paying.
  • Make sure you have a printed copy of your resume and have it ready to share over email if needed.

Even if you thanked them in person, always make sure to follow up in writing to say thank you one more time. You can do this in any way that has been previously utilized – LinkedIn, email, etc. If you didn’t already, make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch long term. It’s encouraged to share your successes as you make career decisions and next steps.

Develop a list of questions in order of importance to help keep you on track during the interview.

  • How did you enter this field? What preparation did you have (classes, activities, experience)?
  • What skills, abilities and personal qualities do you find most important in your work?
  • My research indicates that (name the trend or concern) is an issue in this field. How is this issue affecting the work in this organization? 
  • What do you like most about your job? 
  • What do you see as disadvantages to working in your type of job?
  • What kinds of related work do people in your field sometimes change into?
  • Describe your major activities during a typical work week. 
  • What advice do you have for someone entering this field?
  • Would you recommend any specific professional associations in this field? 
  • How well does my resume work for this field? How could I improve it?
  • For what positions should I realistically apply to? How might I improve my qualifications? • What advice do you have for applying at this organization?
  • Are there other organizations you would suggest I research?
  • Could you suggest the names of other persons in this career field with whom I might talk to?