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There is a lot more to networking than standing in a crowded room with a glass of wine in your hand!

Networking can help you discover the types of work that will suit you, and the organisations in which you'd be most comfortable. It can improve your chances of getting an interview, or uncover an opportunity which has never been advertised. It is especially useful for finding jobs in under-funded areas (eg the media) and in small organisations which may not advertise jobs widely, or at all. It is always useful as a way of finding out what jobs are really like.

You may be interested to read our blog post on Networking in the Creative Industries and Not-For-Profit sectors.

If you are an international student, read this article, How to network as an international student.


Using LinkedIn to connect with alumni and enhance your job search

The Cambridge University Alumni group on LinkedIn has over 350,000 members - a fantastic resource for finding people who studies your course or are working in an area you'd like to explore. You can filter by course, job area, location, employer and much more. Then browse to see other people's career paths, for possible inspiration, or target people who are in positions or organisations that you are interested in. If you connect with them, you'll be able to send a quick message fins out.  Watch our video above to get tips on how to use this. Your own college may have its own LinkedIn network too - an even more targeted way to make connections. 

Employers use social media to advertise roles, headhunt, discuss and react to industry news and give organisational cultural insight.

For some roles if you aren’t engaged with social media, you simply won’t get the job.

Ensure you represent yourself positively in the public domain. Keep personal and professional profiles separately.

Prospect's website have some useful information and advice on social media and job hunting including creating a LinkedIn profile, job hunting through Facebook and finding a career on Twitter.

There are more videos on using LinkedIn under the "Building Your Network series" tab

Networking technique


'Tag' your approach

It is usually easier to approach someone who has either offered themselves as a contact or who has been suggested to you by a mutual friend or another contact. It helps you to start by explaining how you heard of them: 'I got your name from the Cambridge Careers Service alumni database', or 'Dr Bloggs gave me your name and suggested you might be willing to help me…'

Explain your situation

It is easier for contacts to give you what you need if they know your aims, your timetable (how soon do you need an answer?), your level of knowledge, and your experience to date. If emailing, send your CV as a Word or PDF attachment: ‘I attach my CV so that you can see what I have done so far’. They can choose whether to look at it or not, and it saves you both time. If you say ‘I have used the following information sources’ and give a list, they can always skip this, but it may save them the effort of asking how much you already know.

Give them options on how to advise you

By email, by phone, or in person. Make sure that they have all your relevant contact details, and know when and where you are available.

Prepare a list of questions

You will have to gauge how many you can ask, according to how much contact you have already made with the person, how much time they are offering you, and how senior they are.

Ask specific questions

'How can I get into documentary TV production?' is unlikely to receive a helpful answer from a stressed-out executive, however well-intentioned. 'Can you suggest any production companies specialising in children's science programmes besides the ones listed in the PACT directory?' has more chance. Asking, 'What are three things you like least about the job?' is a better prompt than 'What are the downsides?' And 'When did you get home the last couple of nightsis that usual?' could get a more realistic answer than, 'What are the hours?' Think of it as an exercise in market research or investigative journalism.

Get more contacts

It is acceptable to ask e.g. who do they know who might be able to tell you more, give you another angle, or tell you about another organisation. Ask if you can use the original contact's name, and make sure you have captured all the details you need to make the new contact.

Keep records

Being able to say 'I met you at Sue Jones's party in April and…' is much easier and more effective than 'I think we met some time ago and…'.

Write things down

Write down and keep in a distinct, organised file or database (good way of learning MS Access!), notes of your contacts' names, addresses, emails, phone and fax numbers and identities, notes of your conversations with them, and of resources they have suggested. Even the best memory can't retain all the information you'll be gathering.


Acknowledge their response

This is basic and essential good manners, and it can save them wondering whether their email actually got through.

Keep in touch

If someone has given you advice, they may well be curious to know how things turned out, and will probably be pleased to know they were helpful. A short thank-you note letting them know the result, besides being good manners, will remind them of your existence and maybe prompt another piece of help.

Take your CV with you to every meeting with a contact

Do this even if you sent it in advance – it may have been mislaid, left at home, or passed to someone else. Your contact will find it a helpful memo of the conversation with you, and may even offer to pass it on to someone else who could help you (much better than just mentioning you to the new contact). The conversation may go so well that your contact (if it's an employer) begins to think of you as a possible employee rather than a recipient of advice, and you may be asked to leave your CV. If this happens, you may have realised, by that stage in the conversation, that your CV could do with amendment to suit this particular employer, in which case say that you are currently updating it and will send it in tomorrow – and then do so.

Who can you ask what?

Network amongst your peers rather than people much more senior than you. As a rough guide:

Recent graduate, someone 1-3 years ahead of you

  • What are the early stages like, pros & cons of the job?
  • How to get in; the recruitment process; what happens at interview?
  • Advice on your application material?
  • Could I come in to see you at work?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I might contact to find out about…?

Course provider, more senior employee

  • What is the pattern of career progression?
  • Where are jobs advertised?
  • What are the best information websites?
  • Do people with my background get taken on?
  • What’s lacking from my CV?
  • How can I get work experience / do you offer work experience?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I might contact to find out about…?


  • Do you ever have vacancies for graduates / how often / when; how do you recruit?
  • To whom should I send an application / CV?
  • What in particular do you look for?
  • Do you ever take on people with my background?
  • [job changers] Given what I've done so far, what should I do next to make myself a suitable applicant?
  • What training do you provide?
  • Do you ever have short-term or project work available?
  • Can you suggest any other employers I might contact?

Important: Avoid asking questions that could be answered from information in the public domain

  • "Get real experience through work shadowing, a short guided tour even. Only when you have seen and heard a place will you see how boredom and labour mix to create work."

The worst that can happen to you is a refusal of help, probably in the form of a plea of lack of time. (Take this at face value, and not as a judgement of you as a person.) Don't take it for granted that anyone, especially someone working in the arts or media or someone self-employed, such as a barrister, has time to write to you. Contacts sometimes prefer you to phone or visit, as it means less expense of their effort and time.

Finding and approaching employers

Contacts can help to guide you towards specific employers, but there are ways you can help yourself:

  • Read reports on your area of choice: on the web, in broadsheets on the appropriate day, in specialist journals and magazines.
  • Professional journals: invaluable for news of expanding / merging / collapsing organisations, for profiles of leaders in the field, for detailed background information, for hard facts and figures (impressive to quote at interview), for forecasts, and for sheer gossip. Identify the standard trade journals which the professionals in your chosen field read. Many are now online and open-access. Subscriptions and single copies can be expensive – if they aren't online, try the reference section of your local library.
  • Use local sources to identify local employers: local newspaper, public reference library, Job Centre, Yellow Pages (online), recruitment agencies, business parks.

"I had met the boss of one of the London classical music agencies on a choir tour and asked him if I could come along and look over people's shoulders at the agency for a bit. This turned into a fortnight of real work, rather than work shadowing, and a few weeks later he rang up and asked me if I would like to be interviewed for a job going as an administrator of an ensemble. In fact I later learned I was the only person in for the job and the agency had simply been waiting for someone suitable with enough initiative to come along and fill it."

Speculative applications

Writing to organisations who haven't advertised, to ask for work experience or employment can be a good way to secure a job. These "speculative" applications are particularly appropriate and successful in sectors where opportunities are rarely advertised - media, arts, social and political research, small businesses of many kinds.

The letter and CV

Attach your CV to an email; enclose it with a letter. Both letter and CV must be targeted to the particular type of work and/or type of organisation and/or specific organisation / job.

For advice see the Careers Service’s takeaway book CVs and Applications.

  • "Most jobs in music are found through the grapevine. The grapevine can work for or against you. Do not send out anything badly produced, fail to turn up for interviews or create a bad impression in any way. These things get round very quickly."

You as white knight

An extension of the creative job search is to make highly targeted approaches to specific organisations. To do this you must first gain an excellent knowledge of the organisation you are interested in and the problems it is currently suffering from, and work out realistic ideas for solving these problems.

This may sound rather far-fetched, but quite often as an outsider you have a different perspective which enables you to see the realities of the situation which the insiders are too close to. Remember that one major reason why organisations recruit Cambridge graduates is that you can be expected to come up with fresh, creative, useful ideas.

  • "I’m temping at HarperCollins Publishers. The Head of Fiction gets hundreds of speculative applications, but only ten a year addressed to him by name – and to those he gives work."
  • "You need to be able, but you also need to let people know that you're able. Contacts and networking are invaluable, use them constantly. Especially in the media. It's an industry that works on chat, gossip, talking and picking up on opportunity rather than being presented with it." - Colin Burrows (ASNaC 1981), TV and radio producer, MD of Special Treats Production Company.
Other ways of finding contacts


Other Cambridge contacts

You have a very wide range of potential contacts in Cambridge: friends, fellow members of societies, other people in your college, your tutor, supervisors and directors of studies and all their ex-students, the head of your college, other senior members and college alumni - some colleges maintain their own contacts system.

  • "After a few frustrating months I decided to find out what was wrong with me as far as potential employers were concerned, so I contacted someone from my college who had been working for about two years. Through this contact I gained my first break - a three-week stint producing all the material from some dummy spreads for an idea. About halfway through I was offered a six-month contract which I have now been told could be extended indefinitely."

Outside Cambridge

Parents, relations, neighbours, friends, friends' parents, school head and teachers, members of your church, mosque, synagogue, temple, societies, sports clubs etc; your local councillor, MP, MEP. If you cannot find contacts in the organisations you are targeting, can you find others who deal with that organisation as clients or suppliers of services, who could suggest contacts to you?


You could identify a potential contact through an article in a magazine or from a TV programme. You can contact someone whose name you found on a website. This can work if you have a query that is closely linked to their individual interests and you make it clear that you are approaching them in their expert role.

Contacts you make informally are often the most productive. Jobs really do result from chance encounters at social occasions or a conversation on a train. If there's a conversational opening, don't be shy of letting people know that you're aiming to work in a particular sphere; and if somebody potentially helpful suggests you get back to them, follow up.

"When I was having breakfast with a friend a couple of days after returning from the Middle East she revealed that one of her neighbours was looking for an assistant. A phone call resulted in an interview and a subsequent job offer."