Publications Unit Professional Development Workshop Series: Notes on Professional Networking & Job Offer Negotiating

Professional Networking

Networking is the lifelong process of building alliances and surrounding yourself with a community of advocates. It is a way of matching what you know with who you know via means that are effective for you and best meet your goals and needs. Because networking must be tailored to your own emerging social skill set, it is important to reflect on and learn about how your best and most fulfilling interpersonal interactions occur. Are you an extrovert who can take over a room and meet everyone in minutes? Are you an introvert who prefers a prefatory email that can lead to a face-to-face interaction later? A little bit of both, perhaps? In any case, having a bounty of networking skills will be helpful to you as an emerging professional.

The US Department of Labor reports that 70% of jobs are secured through networking practices, and that up to 85% of jobs are the result of interpersonal communication (networking and recruiting). This is fundamentally different from traditional notions of how people go about securing a job, such as online classified ads or search sites. Networking opens up this hidden job market.

In order to network effectively, it is important to take stock of who your connections are. Networking experts classify connections as either strong or weak. Strong connections are people you know personally and can vouch for your skills and capabilities in a dynamic way—these are people who have seen your work and know you first hand, although their firsthand knowledge may take place entirely through digital means. Weak connections, on the other hand, are people you may know through one of your strong connections or are acquaintances who are not as familiar with you or your skills. And then, of course, there are folks with whom you have no connection. Yet.

A strong connection can often be relied upon to vouch for you to a weak connection and expand your network. It is important, however, when making new connections through existing ones, to deliver on any promises they make on your behalf. For example, if you have a connection vouch for you to an employer by making a phone call on your befalf, then that company hires you and you quit after two months, it can harm both of you. You can weaken your own network as well as your strong connection’s network by burning bridges or failing to act in good faith when people vouch for you.

To expand your network, consider who already know and you might want to know. List-making and self-reflection are good here because you may overlook a strong connection who is extremely obvious.  You can find new people through research, investigation, or through interactions with your other connections. It is perfectly acceptable to “cold call” a new person you would like to add to your network, but it is important to contact these people with a genuine interest in them and their work, rather than just satisfying your own needs and goals. Consider an email where you introduce yourself and ask for direction or guidance. Perhaps you are cold calling a person who holds a job that is similar to what you are seeking. You may be able to learn a great deal from a brief exchange in which this person narrates how they came to be in their current position.

Social media and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be useful for professional networking, but they can also harm your professional reputation if mismanaged or misused. I still view these sites as more informal and less professional, although I do engage with people through them, especially if I have no other way to contact or cold meet people. Social networking sites can be a good place to start, but make sure to manage your online image as best you can.

Reciprocity is also important in networking. When you are starting out in a field, you may have little ability to reciprocate within your networks in a meaningful way and may have to rely on others’ generosity. It is important to think about gift economy and exchange, especially if you are in a creative field. Internships, volunteer work, and freelance gigs can all be ways to both network and gain experience in creative employment.

As you advance in your career, however, and are in a position to offer something to others, it is important to network in that way. Reciprocal networking is based on win-win thinking and exchange. Remember that it can take only one person to make a difference in your life or career, and you can also be the difference-maker for someone else when given the opportunity.

It is vitally important to be educated about the field you are seeking to enter. The real education in your professional field often begins once you graduate, since the professional world of your field and its myriad niches are often looked at from theoretical vantage points within higher education. Besides researching your field, it is important to attend conferences and trade shows, as well as to establish and maintain memberships in professional organizations.

Networking, however, is often mistakenly thought of on a macro level, which can be intimidating. It is important to remember to build connections locally, too. When beginning a position with any organization, consider seeking out like-minded people within the organization and building alliances this way. If your organization is divided into departments or divisions, take time to find out about the work going on there and the people doing it.

Typically, your first opportunities to professionally network occur during your undergraduate career. You can network with faculty and staff at your school, as well as visitors in your field of expertise who have been invited to campus. It is also worthwhile to make connections with alumni through alumni associations and events. And don’t forget about peers. Think about this: the peers in your cohort who you are close with have parents who are likely already in the professional world. Children often enter a profession that is similar to what their parents do (how many of your teachers had children who became teachers?). This means that your friends within your field of study may also be able to serve as strong connections for you.

Finally, don’t wait to start networking. It is something that you should be proactive about. If you’re anything like me, you might have been waiting for mentors to seek you out, or for others to recognize you as talented in your field. Well, you can wait forever if the people you want to notice you don’t even know about the kind of work you are capable of doing.

Networking Links:

“Professional Networking: It’s Not Just Suggested, It’s Required,” Southern Methodist University Hegi Family Career Development Center:

“Professional/Business Networking,” Communication Career Services, UT–Austin:

“How to Power Your Professional Networking Through LinkedIn,” by Haydn Shaughnessy,

Job Offers: Salary and Benefits Negotiation

The most important thing I can tell anyone about negotiating job offers, especially if you are from the Midwest and have been groomed to be polite and shy when it comes to discussing money is that you can’t be afraid to talk money and benefits.

It is important to have the confidence to avoid underselling yourself when you are in position to negotiate for salary or benefits in your position.

It is equally important to ask for and take time to consider an offer fully before accepting it.

When negotiating a job offer, it is important to be direct and honest. Ask for what you want.

Make sure that you research expected salary for your position and experience. It also doesn’t hurt to inquire with any connections you might have in an organization to find out about what you can negotiate for (not everything is public knowledge, and relying on an informed network can give you more power to negotiate). For example, a company might have different kinds of relocation packages based on your needs, or you might be able to get a number of years from previous experience put toward your new position, which can affect promotion or retirement options.

When negotiating a job offer, consider what gives you the power to negotiate. Perhaps you have multiple offers. Perhaps you have experience that is unique from other potential applicants.

Salary and Benefits Negotiation Links:

“Evaluating and Negotiating a Job Offer,” Career Services, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

“Managing and Negotiating Job Offers,” CareerLAB, Brown University:

“How To Negotiate Effectively,” MIT Global Education and Career Development:

“Everything Is Negotiable: Learn the Power Factors,” Linda Jenkins,

The Professor Is In.: Karen Kelsky’s blog posts about negotiating offers for academic positions:

“How to Negotiate a Job Offer if You Are the Employer,” (n.b., I included this one for a counter-perspective.):

This is just the tip of the iceberg for resources on this subject. As usual, I omitted ISU-related resources, since anyone interested in these topics should know to use these resources:

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