Build Your Network and Find a Mentor
Networking is more essential than ever in your internship and job search to help clarify and define career interests in a variety of fields while making valuable connections. Being part of the USC community means you are already part of an amazing global network! We encourage you to take advantage of all the networking resources available to you including our step-by-step networking directions and resources below.
Demystifying Networking Videos
Watch these “Demystifying Networking” videos for a quick overview on how to start networking:
Networking Strategy Step-by-Step Guide
1. Start with who you know: classmates, friends, family, community members
Let everyone you know that you are exploring careers and/or internship/job searching. Do not underestimate the potential contacts your community might know! Also, consider your professors since many remain in contact with their former students and support organizations and professionals in their respective industries/disciplines.
2. Find new connections through USC, social media platforms, and professional associations.
Find alumni with similar interests and skill sets using the Trojan Network, LinkedIn, and school-based networking platforms. Use social media to identify people with commonalities or similar careers/fields of interests- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to start!
The USC Career Center recommends starting with these top 3 networking resources:
One of the most important and advantageous resources for USC Trojans is the Trojan Network, our exclusive networking and mentorship platform. It only takes a few minutes to register and find alumni contacts and mentors that have volunteered to offer advice throughout your time at USC and beyond.
- Once logged in, select the “Network” tab at the top. This will display a complete list of alums.
- Filter the list to find an individual by industry, geographic location, identity and residential communities, etc.
- Once identified, select “Let’s Connect” to pick a template where you can edit the message according to networking advice, career exploration, or a new topic of your choice!
- Create a LinkedIn profile to get started.
- Use the “Search” box to start find alumni with your major, job, or organization of interest. Tips on finding alumni in LinkedIn.
- Look at alumni career paths, see what groups they are in, and research organization’s pages.
Check your school-based/academic career services and student organizations for alumni networking platforms and upcoming virtual networking events.
Additional Networking Resources include:
- Professional Associations
Find new contacts by researching organizations, industries, professional associations, and conferences that are related to the work you are potentially interested in. Access the USC LibGuide Professional Associations section or the Career Access Resource Library (CARL) and type in the field of interest in the search engine for related information.
Many professional associations have discounted rates for students, and industry professionals are often impressed by and willing to mentor proactive students who join and participate or volunteer for these associations.
Watch video clips of alumni being interviewed about their career paths in diverse industries and positions. Some alumni have offered to talk with you – look under the alumni Candid Career profile for the checked “Career Coach” button.
3. Asking to connect
Most networking relationships start with an informational interview as a way to connect with your contact in a meaningful manner and build rapport. An informational interview is a one-on-one (or virtual) meeting between you (the information seeker) and an information provider (i.e., working professional) where you begin the process of gathering in-depth information about career fields, positions of interest, and industry trends.
When asking for an informational interview, you should consider conveying the following in their initial message/connection:
- Explain what resource or connection helped you find the contact
- A brief self-introduction (major, year, and current career interests)
- Explain why you are reaching out and what your are hoping to learn through an informational interview
Tips for using the Trojan Network to reach out: To help connect with alumni and ask for information appropriately, the USC Trojan Network has templates to guide the conversation. Once you log-in and identify an individual you want to speak with, select “Let’s Connect” and a window with three different email templates pop up. Feel free to use these templates for the Trojan Network or emails you send to potential new contacts.
Tips for using LinkedIn to reach out: When requesting a connection, you should personalize the message to explain why you wish to connect and what outcome you are hoping for (i.e. an informational interview).
4. Conduct informational interviews
Before: Explore how to set up and conduct an informational interview. Organize your list of potential contacts and start making your requests to meet. Once an informational interview has been scheduled, create a list of questions to ask your contact. Some of our most recommended questions can be found here. Avoid any questions that might make your contact feel uncomfortable.
During: In the very beginning of the networking process, you should try to build rapport slowly with your contact and start off the conversation asking for information and advice. Eventually your contact might offer to look at your resume or forward along your application materials to Human Resources but in the very beginning of the networking process do not expect that your contact will offer their services other than providing information.
Start your informational interview off by greeting your contact warmly and thanking them for taking time out of their schedule. Remind them briefly of the reason you wanted to connect with them. Mention that you prepared a few questions and if they are Ok with getting started. When asking them your questions, give them ample time to answer without interruption. Take notes minimally if needed but do not let your notetaking be a distraction.
After: When you are done with the informational interview, verbally thank them again and ask them if there is anyone else they think you should be connecting with and ask if they would be willing to refer you. Send them a thank you email within 48 hours.
5. Repeat the networking process again and again!
Networking is a give and take opportunity. Just as we expect alumni to help you during your times of need, we expect that you will serve as a good resource for other people along the way. Sharing what you have learned with others will help you in the end so please be generous with helping others along the way.
You can gain valuable advice from mentors during brief chat sessions, informational interviews, and real-world projects. These individuals offer insight into the recruiting process, connect you with others in the field, and help advance or grow your career. Students and learn from the experience of a mentor in order to develop into a well-rounded professional.
USC offers several different mentorship programs by department, academic unit or interest group. We have highlighted a few but encourage you to speak with your academic advisor or school-based career center regarding specific major based mentorship programs:
LEAD Mentoring: Connects experienced USC students with incoming students, both first-year and transfer students! The primary goals of the program are to develop USC’s future leaders by providing support and guidance for new students, increasing student awareness of campus and community resources, and creating a network of leaders at USC.
Trojan Network: Learn from alumni regarding their career and industry-related experiences. You can gain valuable advice from alumni during brief chat sessions, informational interviews, mentorships, and real-world projects.
- Connect with your peers by selecting the “Classmates” tab within the Trojan Network
- Network with alums by selecting the “Network” tab within the Trojan Network
First-Generation Mentor Program: Gives first-generation college students exposure to the working world and a focus on professional and career development. Undergraduate students will be paired with USC alumni who were also first-generation college students.