Networking is a process through which you thoughtfully create and sustain relationships to exchange information. The most successful networking, like any relationship is built upon mutual benefit.
When using Zoom or similar platform
- If registration is required, register in advance
- Put yourself on mute when not speaking
- Even if in a small group- recognize that it's not an interview, but an opportunity to connect with employers, ask questions and briefly share your skills.
The format is often similar to an in-person Information Session. The employer will provide a brief overview of the organization, available job opportunities, possibly a short video of a panel or other interns/coworkers who've worked in the position and can share additional information. There's usually some time allotted for Q&A. Prepare questions to ask and engage virtually with the employer representatives.
Employers may host webinars for multiple universities, or they may host virtual information sessions specifically for Duke students. Log into CareerConnections to see and register for virtual webinars or information sessions.
The Career Center hosts Sophomore Conversations (for sophomore students) and Fyrst Contact (for first year students) throughout the academic year. These are opportunities to learn about organizations and job opportunities. There are often limited available spots for the sessions so sign up early when they're advertised.
More Steps to Success
Engage in the self-inquiry process before you begin building your professional network. Take some time to reflect on who you really are, what makes you unique and what career-related aspirations you have. Doing so will allow you to feel more natural and authentic when building relationships, especially with strangers. See our Know Yourself section
Learn what networking is and is not. Keep in mind that meeting people and developing relationships is something you already know how to do. Apply the techniques you already use to meet and follow-up with fellow classmates, strangers at a party, professors, coaches, advisors and so on.
Develop a 30-Second Elevator Pitch. Select the link below to take steps to create your elevator pitch.
- Academic Career Prep
- Campus Recruiting
- Career Fair Prep
- Communication Guide
- Cover Letter
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Disability Disclosure in the Job Search
- Informational Interviewing
- Interviewing–Technical Interviewing
- Job & Career Research LibGuide
- Networking & LinkedIn
- Postdoc Search
- Professional Goal Setting
- Salary and Offers
One of the keys to successful networking and interviewing is to make a really strong first impression, and one of the first opportunities to make this impression is very often the result of responding to the question “Tell me about yourself.” The answer: your personal pitch. It is essentially an overview of your experience, skills, strengths, accomplishments, and goals—all in 30 seconds
You will use your 30-second pitch throughout your professional life. Some of the situations where you are able to use it now are:
- At an interview
- In a cover letter—to highlight your background and key abilities
- At professional networking events—when you are asked to introduce yourself
- In cold-calling employers for an internship or future job.
- When introducing yourself to a potential employer at a career fair
The structure of a 30-second pitch generally follows this pattern:
- Introduce yourself, as appropriate.
- Discuss your experience. As a student, this would include your major field of study. If you have practical experience in the field you could include that as well.
- State a strength or skill the employer would be interested in.
- Follow that with an accomplishment (or two) that proves you have that skill. It can be related to school, work, a volunteer experience, an activity (like Eagle Scout), etc.
- Describe your employment goal—what are you looking for now and/or in the future?
- Most importantly, tell how you can immediately benefit the company.
Practice, practice, practice!!!
Your 30-second pitch should be conversational and natural. Although prepared in advance, it should never sound memorized. You want to appear confident, enthusiastic, poised, and professional.
Make it memorable but not outrageous. You are competing with many other qualified candidates and your pitch should allow you to stand out a bit from the crowd. Whether it is the vocabulary you choose or a specific achievement you mention, you want to engage the listener and give them an opportunity to see your personality.
Be prepared for follow-up questions, especially in an interview. You may be asked for more information or to elaborate on something you said, which will keep the conversation going. Part of your strategy is to develop a rapport with the interviewer/employer and a good pitch and follow-up will help to set a positive tone.
Vary your closing to fit the circumstances. For an interview, focus on how you can benefit the company or how you fit the particular position. At a networking event or career fair, you want to be proactive and may want to consider an action question
- May I send you a resume?
- May I have your business card and contact you …”
Questions to Think about in Developing your 30-Second Elevator Pitch
- What is your career goal? (usually in the form of doing something for someone)
- What skill or strength do you have that would help you realize that goal?
- What accomplishment proves you have that skill or strength?
- What are you searching for in a job?
- How can you immediately benefit the company/organization?
Here’s ONE example framework to get you started on your 30-second Elevator Pitch
Note: This is not the only way to frame your pitch!
Hello, [________], my name is [__________]. I am a [class year] here at Duke majoring in __________. I am [strength, experience, etc.], which I demonstrated when I [accomplishment] and I think my experience in [what?] has equipped me to succeed as a [what position?] at [company or organization]. Could you please tell me about the characteristics of successful entry-level [position] at your company?
Now, write a draft of your 30-second elevator pitch.
Build your Board of Directors, where you are the chair or CEO. Duke students benefit from building and maintaining a Board of Directors.
Generate a list of people you have already developed relationships with at this point. Keep in mind, it's not only about who you know but who they know as well.
The Five Fs
Practice and then practice some more. There is no better way to strengthen your communication and increase your confidence then to actually practice! See our Informational Interviewing page.
Follow up to maintain your relationships. This is the most critical part to the process. It's simple to just meet a lot of people but maintaining your relationships will require time and effort. Don't forget to thank people when they help you. This will ensure that they will help you again in the future. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools to maintain your relationships so learn how to use them effectively.
Learn the elements of a strong profile and how to network using LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the best tools for connecting with professionals in different industries. Think of it as a searchable database of resumes. While this guide will help you build a stronger profile, you only need some basic information and a picture if you want to start contacting people. Create a strong profile.
Find LinkedIn profile examples
Before making your own profile, it’s important to review 5 to 10 detailed LinkedIn profiles of people who are in your career(s) of interest. What words or phrases do they use to describe themselves? How is their information organized, both in the order of the sections and the content within each section? How are they dressed in their picture, and do they use a background image?
Use a professional picture
Most LinkedIn photos are taken from the shoulders up (headshot). Match your attire to the work culture of your career of interest. Choose a neutral background, such as a blank wall. Many Duke students like to use the stone facades of buildings as their background.
Brainstorm the content for your profile
Use these questions to generate ideas of what you want to include in your LinkedIn profile:
- What are your skills or strengths?
- What are your personal qualities?
- What adjectives would your classmates, co-workers, mentors, or family use to describe you?
- What is unique about your experiences or interests?
- What type of work do you want to do? Who will you work with? Who will benefit?
- Why do you want to pursue this career?
- What are your career goals in the next 5 to 10 years? These could be specific job titles or broader skills, responsibilities, and outcomes.
- What qualities are you looking for in a job, in co-workers, and work environment?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What types of employers will be reading your LinkedIn profile? What are they expecting?
From your answers, identify key words and phrases that stand out the most.
Write your summary
Elements to include:
- Introduction: Who are you? What type of work or careers are you interested in?
- Background: summary of education and experience
- Unique skills: strengths, skill sets
- Motivation: why are you interested in this field?
- Specialties: list of skills and important keywords
Doctoral student at Duke University in Environmental Sciences and Policy program at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Interested in applying research skills to energy problems and impacting policy through analyzing market dynamics. Specializing in renewable energy, clean energy, air quality, climate change, and environmental mitigation strategies.
Areas of expertise
- Life cycle analysis of environmental problems
- Integration of new fuels into energy markets
- Risk assessment of exposure to air pollutants
My work brings together people, learning, and the arts. I am genuinely interested in building meaningful relationships and equitable communities, often creating and often connecting. I am motivated by adult education, encouraging transformative learning
moments and experiences through the contexts of relationship and community.
Currently, I do this with a venture-backed start-up helping others sell marketing software, with a Methodist church helping others sing songs, and with some other wonderful community members helping others have hard conversations.
Specialties: sales prospecting, customer service and retention, community outreach, event planning
I am a data scientist who enjoys connecting the dots: be it ideas from different disciplines, people from different teams, or applications from different industries. I have strong technical skills and an academic background in engineering, statistics, and machine learning. I also have a proven ability to deliver high-quality results for major organizations.
My passion lies in solving business problems with tailored data and algorithms and communicating complex ideas to non-technical stakeholders. I am able to jump across verticals to deliver high-performing AI solutions.
Software and Programming Languages:
Spark (Spark SQL, MLLib, Pyspark), Python (scikit-learn, numpy, scipy, pandas, TensorFlow), R, SQL, SAS, and Microsoft Excel
Condense your summary into a headline
There are a couple different options for how you write your headline. One is to use the space to make a strong statement. The other is to use your current or expected position title. You have 120 characters to create a headline that will appear right next to your name in search results. Two options for headlines are to make a strong statement or to use a position title..
Making a statement
What keywords stand out to you from your summary that you would want to elevate to your headline? Do you have specialties you want to emphasize? Or will being a little creative help you to stand out (in a good way)?
- Qualitative Researcher Specializing in Survey Design and Marketing Research
- Computational scientist specializing in metamaterials and plasmonics
- Scholar, Community Advocate, Educator, and Counselor
- Cultural Heritage Scientist
- Wordsmith translating business objectives into communications strategies
- Problem Solver and Adventurer in Data Science
- Energy Markets and Policy
Current or expected title
Many users choose their current position title and organization for their headline. This can be a little tricky since “Student” or “Graduate Student” does not convey much to an employer. You can start referring to yourself as a humanist, researcher, analyst, engineer, etc. even if your experiences have chiefly been in college or at an internship.
- Digital Humanities Librarian at Duke University
- Machine Learning Data Scientist
- Medical Device Engineer | Biology Instructor
- Social Psychologist
- Biomedical Chemist
- International Policy Analyst
- Graduate Student Researcher at Duke University
- Master’s Candidate at Duke University, specializing in international development
You can add examples of your work on LinkedIn, either in files or links to websites. Consider what outcomes or products an employer would expect from you, whether it is reports, presentations, code (such as on GitHub), publications, videos, or something else.
Any sort of experiences can appear in this section, paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, internship, job or
co-op. Select the experiences that are most relevant to your career goals and showcase your skills. Write content in this section similar to a resume using bulleted information in accomplishment statements: strong verb + context + outcome. Emphasize the methods, purpose, and impact where it’s useful. See our Resume Writing Guide for more information.
The experience you have gained may be better organized into projects. These could be course projects, research projects, group projects, extracurricular projects, or personal projects. Similar to the Experience section, use this space to describe the purpose of the project, your contributions, and the overall results.
List your previous and current educational pursuits starting with undergraduate studies and community college. You can include majors, minors, certificates, and other degree programs. Relevant courses can also go in this section or you can add a separate section for Courses, depending on how much attention you want to give that information.
Recommendations are a way to show that others value your contributions. Consider asking 1 to 3 people in your network for recommendations, especially if you ask them to focus on particular skills or projects. Here are some examples of people you might ask.
- Internship supervisors
- Thesis or dissertation committee members
- Co-workers and supervisors in projects, jobs, service, and group work
Publications or Patents
List relevant publications or patents that you have contributed to or authored, including peer-reviewed publications, news articles, op-eds, or blog posts. If you have published a lot of material, choose the best samples you would want employers to see.
Customize your URL
LinkedIn allows you to edit your URL so that it is shorter and easier to type into a web browser. You can try shortening the link to a variation of your name. Then you can include the shorter link on application documents and business cards.
Order of your sections
Once you have content in your different sections, you should consider the order of the sections on your profile. Readers expect that the most important and relevant information will appear closer to the top of the page.
Connect with People You Know
Consider connecting with these people on LinkedIn to start your network. Make sure to click on their profile, select the “Connect” button, and then “Add a note” to personalize your message. It’s more meaningful for your contacts to receive a note from you rather than the standard message LinkedIn sends.
This is especially important when you start to reach out to professionals you may not know.
- Family members
- Friends from high school, college, and graduate school
- Faculty mentors and teachers
- Colleagues and supervisors from on-campus groups, internships, summer programs, previous jobs
Join Groups to Make New Connections
Groups on LinkedIn are a powerful, underestimated tool. While it can at times be difficult to contact a specific person, if you are in the same group, you can send them a direct message by searching through the list of group members. So, you should join as many relevant groups as you find useful. Many groups are also active communities sharing information and leads on jobs and internships.
Consider joining these LinkedIn groups:
- Duke University Alumni Network
- Duke University Graduate School
- Linking the Triangle
- Groups for Duke academic programs, majors, institutions, etc.
- Identity groups broadly and in your career(s) of interest
- Alumni groups of past colleges and universities
- Career(s) of interest
- Technologies and methods relevant to your experience
- Professional association groups
- Groups in geographical regions of interest
For more specific recommendations, see our pages on Explore Careers page.
LinkedIn will allow you to join 50 or more groups, so join as many as you can to maximize your chances of being able to connect with professionals in these different fields.
To successfully navigate the job search, you must utilize the people that you know! Networking allows you to learn about different industries and current openings, helps you make contacts at companies, and enables you to gain the inside scoop. While obtaining a job or internship is the goal, effective networking does not solely consist of asking someone to help you find a job. You must inform your contacts about your career interests and goals before they can help you.
Before you can start networking you must identify your network. Fill in for each of the categories to examine your existing network.
Step 1: Personal Connections
- Relatives and Friends
- Academic Contacts (Professors, Administration)
- Former Employers (Part-Time Jobs, Internships)
- Campus Organizations and Community Involvement (Clubs, Sports, Volunteer Work)
- Networking Events (Career Fairs, TechConnect)
- Professional Associations
Step 2: Virtual Connections
- LinkedIn (1st, 2nd, 3rd, Group)
- Duke Alumni Association
Step 3: Connections of Connections
- Who do your connections know?
What steps will you take next to apply what you have learned from this Networking Guide?
Prepare and Practice
- Create and Consider your introduction for different contexts
- Seek out opportunities to practice (e.g., networking events)
- Access Alumni and Professional Networks (utilizing tools such as LinkedIn and the Duke Alumni Directory)
- Join and get involved in Professional Associations
Clarify and commit to your next steps.
Successful entrepreneurship is all about successful networking, which means you should be doing it too. Most startups include the contact information of their founders and employees on their websites. Reach out and ask for a conversation in-person, over the phone, or virtually to introduce yourself and learn more.
Learn about a wide variety of resources, programs, and events, and connect with alumni and local mentors and entrepreneurs. Student organizations, summer programs, workshops, networking opportunities, competitions and funding resources, and more are available through I&E.
An active network of Duke entrepreneurs that holds events on campus and across the country. It is also a LinkedIn group, which is a great way to reach out to people directly.
An annual networking fair in February that offers resources and information about available jobs and internships at over 30 startup companies. In CareerConnections, select Job and Internship Search, Advanced Search, and Yes on Affiliated with StartupConnect to find startup companies who are hiring Duke students.
Provides 7,600 square feet of project space for Duke undergraduate and graduate students focused on engineering, energy, entrepreneurship, and sustainability to build ideas from the ground up.
A hotbed for entrepreneurship. Check out local start-up hubs, incubators, and accelerators such as American Underground, First Flight Venture Center, Groundwork Labs, HQ Raleigh, Southeast TechInventures, The Startup Factory, and more. Many of these organizations offer tours, mentorship programs, networking events, internship and full-time positions, and co-working space.
The largest directory for both startup companies and positions. Do not wait for the perfect position to be posted, find cool startups and reach out.
Database for opportunities at startups.
Two-year fellowship program in emerging U.S. cities.
Search this internship database for opportunities at startups by filtering by Organization type, startup.
Internship program for computer science and engineering students at startups around the country.
Local Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub, works closely with Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Four-week, one-course program, located in the nation’s hub for innovative enterprise, designed to give students an intensive course experience in the creation of a new business venture, both commercial and social.
Create business cards
While not required, business cards can be an easy way to exchange contact information at interviews, career fairs, conferences, networking events, or other social situations. Plus, offering your business card can be a good prompt for an employer to offer theirs in return.