Networking plays an important role in your career success, from career exploration through career management. When making career decisions, networking can help you learn the realities of the job, employer, or industry from experienced professionals in the field. Networking may also help you navigate the complexities of obtaining licensure, including finding appropriate student teaching and field experiences.
Whom to Network with
You might be surprised at the number of people in your existing network. For each of the categories in the diagram below, write down a list of names of people that you know. If you can think of other categories, be sure to include them, too.
After you've written down names within your network, consider contacting them to ask if they know any licensed education professionals working in your career of interest or if they know someone who is on the licensing board for your state.
Try using the Networking Contacts worksheet
Where to Network
You can network anywhere and everywhere.
- Social situations (parties, weddings, graduations)
- Committee meetings
- Volunteer activities
- Talking to people on public transportation
- Professional associations conferences and meetings
- Licensing board meetings
- Informational interviews
- Networking events
Prepare for Networking
It is important to prepare before you begin contacting people. Preparation will help you manage your time more effectively and allow others to understand how they can best help you.
Make a good impression. Dress professionally and appropriately for the specific situation.
Tell People What You Need
Depending on where you are in your career and what your goals are, networking may help you learn more about topics that are top-of-mind for you, including:
- When attending an event, approach someone you've never met or someone with whom you want to re-connect
- Use a firm, palm-to-palm handshake that lasts approximately 3 seconds. Deliver your professional introduction (see example below)
- When you have made a meaningful connection, give your business card or personal contact card to the other person
The elevator speech is a concise (30 second) way of introducing yourself professionally. The components of your speech should include:
- Your name spoken slowly, particularly if it is hard to pronounce or uncommon
- The degree you are considering, working toward, or have already earned at Capella University
- Overview of 2–3 skills and/or experiences you have that align with the field
- Specific examples of accomplishments to demonstrate your stated skills
- Your interest in a particular area of education, or in the school or educational institution
- A question for the person with whom you are speaking
- Hi, I'm Marcia Alexander. It's nice to meet you, Jeremy. I see from your nametag that you're a principal at Eastview Elementary. I'm currently working on a Master of Science degree in Leadership in Educational Administration at Capella University and plan to pursue Principal Licensure when I complete my degree. I've taught at South Elementary for 8 years, but I've taken on more leadership responsibilities in the school and district over the past few years. As an experienced principal, do you have any suggestions for other things I could do to prepare myself for a school leadership position.
Maintaining the Conversation
- Demonstrate appropriate body language that shows you're listening actively (e.g. nodding and maintaining eye contact)
- Ask professional questions based on your research
- Listen attentively and ask appropriate follow-up questions
- Respect the person's time by limiting conversations to no more than 10 minutes at events, unless you're confident that the other person is interested in continuing the conversation
- Thank the person with whom you are talking
- Summarize your discussion and follow-up steps
Thank you for sharing your suggestions for professional associations to join. As we discussed, I will contact you next week to arrange a time to meet for coffee
- Use your "exit phrase"
- Example 1:
It's been really nice meeting you, I'm sure you have other people you want to meet and I want to give you the opportunity to do so. Enjoy the rest of the reception.
- Example 2:
If there is anything I can ever do to help you out, please let me know
- Follow through on all actions promised during interaction (e.g. forwarding resume, setting up another meeting)
- Send a thank you note to people with whom you had a meaningful conversation
Maintaining Your Network
While it's important to build your network, it's even more important to maintain your network by connecting with your contacts on a regular basis.
- Send a thank you card or email after an initial meeting
- Check in regularly via phone calls or emails (e.g. holidays, birthdays, quarterly)
- Forward relevant articles or information
- Provide updates on your professional accomplishments
- Inform contacts when you incorporated their suggestions
- Offer to assist when you discover your contact has a need
Capella University cannot guarantee licensure, certification, or endorsement. State regulations vary regarding professional licensure and salary benefits. It is learners' responsibility to understand and comply with requirements for their state.