How can I network if I don’t know anyone?


Everyone keeps telling me how important networking is, but I don’t know anyone in the career I’m interested in.

How can I network if I don’t know anyone?

If you don’t yet know anyone in your career of interest, there are several things you can do to get your networking ball rolling.

You may be surprised that you do actually know someone.

Most of the time, when I’m speaking with a student, after I ask a couple of questions, they find that they do know someone in their field of interest – they just hadn’t thought of them yet.

Have you thought about:

Your professors? Might a professor you’ve worked with have some insight into your career field?

People you’ve volunteered with? Might your past supervisor or other staff whom you interacted with have knowledge about the field you’re entering?

Guest speakers? Interesting guest speakers you’ve heard in class or at an event you went to may seem intimidating, but if they were willing to put themselves out there, there’s a chance they’d be willing to talk with you one-on-one too.

What about your friend’s networks?

While you know all your friends and probably know a bit about some of their friends and families, your friends know lots of other people too.

Have you asked all your friends, “Do you know anyone who works in [Human Resources/Accounting/Industrial Design, etc.] ”?  You may not have known that they have a cousin, aunt or ex-best friend who works in exactly the career that you are interested in. Through this one degree of separation, you may find many new connections to start your networking.

What other networks are you already a part of?

While you may not know anyone else in your career of interest, you are in other networks.

Perhaps the best one to start with is the alumni network of your school and program. Alumni are often very pleased to help students who are from their alma mater. Check with your career centre and your alumni office to see if they have any alumni listings, databases or events where you can speak with alumni and, through them, connect with people in your career of interest.

Sometimes the very first step is the hardest, especially when starting to build a network into a new career field. But after that first step, the momentum builds and soon you’ll see your network grow.

Click here to check out more of Cathy’s answers to pressing career questions from students and new grads just like you.

About the author

Cathy Keates is a career counsellor and trainer who has worked with university students and graduates for the past decade, helping them to strategically create careers they will love. She has worked as a career counsellor at Queen's University and was the associate director of the career centre at York University. Convinced that we can all create lives based on authenticity and integrity, she is the author of the new job search book Not for Sale! and shares her thoughts about finding work without losing yourself on her blog, Transform Your Job Search.