Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Career Launch: Networking Tips for Young HR Professionals

​How often have you heard, "it's not what you know, but who you know"? While this statement is not completely accurate—you need the appropriate skills for an HR position—the reality is that interacting with others opens doors to career growth. In fact, 85% of openings are filled through networking.

Reaching out to strangers can be intimidating. Most students (and even many professionals) get uncomfortable when hearing the word "networking," but it is a necessary tool in helping to build a successful career.

Whether or not you love or fear networking, this toolkit offers valuable tips for in-person and virtual networking so you can advance your career.

What Is Networking?

Networking is the process of developing connections with others in the workplace. Investopedia defines networking as interactions between individuals who share similar professions or interests so they can connect and share information.

Through networking, you'll meet people who can help you achieve your career goals by sharing tips for success and insights on the HR industry. You will also meet individuals who can support your professional journey and make introductions to others you should know.

Before jumping into helpful networking tips, let's debunk some common myths.

7 Networking Myths

  1. Myth: Networking is only for the desperate, underqualified, or first-time job seeker. People with experience—and who are good at their jobs—can easily find new positions.
    Reality: Most people must network to create career opportunities. Often, the best positions are not advertised via job boards or job postings; networking gives savvy job seekers an inside advantage to discovering these openings.
  2. Myth: Networking is scary because the interaction must be flawless. You might think: I can't mess up!
    Reality: Networking is a chance to have conversations and meet new people with shared interests.
  3. Myth: It's embarrassing—it feels like I'm begging for a job.
    Reality: Good networking is about more than a job. It's a chance to learn about an organization, a position, and the people who work there in order to understand if it's a place you would like to work.
  4. Myth: Networking is only for outgoing individuals. If I don't say the "right things," I've lost my chance.
    Reality: With practice, everyone can learn to network.
  5. Myth: I'm imposing on others when I ask them to take time out of their jam-packed schedules to talk with me.
    Reality: People are busy, but many professionals also say they found at least one job by making time to network and build relationships.
  6. Myth: Networking is tacky. Everyone is just trying to outdo one another.
    Reality: Networking is a chance to learn from others and create relationships that benefit both individuals. If done in a meaningful manner, it can be a valuable and authentic experience.
  7. Myth: Networking is just about landing a job.
    Reality: Networking sparks opportunities in all aspects of life. For example, you might meet a person at an HR networking event with the same hobbies or passion for volunteer work, which, in turn, leads to a new friendship. You may also meet a mentor who can share invaluable advice and guidance.

Now let's take a closer look at how you can maximize networking to achieve your goals!

Tips for Any Networking Scenario

Where and how you network can range from formal to informal functions, in-person or online. Regardless of the situation, the following strategies can help you maximize every networking scenario.

Plan ahead

Before you attend a networking event, look at a list of attendees (if one is available). Many events share a list of registered participants. Identify two or three people you're interested in meeting and learn about them before you arrive. If you know someone who knows them, then ask about the person's interests, etc. If you don't know someone who knows them, then check on LinkedIn and note any mutual connections, interests, or even shared alma maters.

Identify the best networking contacts

Effective networking is not just about the number of people you know but the quality of the relationships. In sales, it's been said that 80% of revenue comes from 20% of clients. It pays dividends when you nurture deep, mutually beneficial connections. The same is true in networking.

Spend time thinking about who might be the most valuable contact in your professional network. These are a few contacts you may want to consider:

  • Any HR professional is a good contact, whereas a person working in an area of responsibility or expertise similar to your career goals is a higher-value contact. They can speak from first-hand experience on advice that will help get you to where you want to go and connect you with others who can help you advance in that area.
  • People working within your chosen specialty, or one closely related to it who hold job titles one, two or three levels above yours. These are the people most likely to be involved in hiring someone like you.
  • Peers also make good networking contacts. You can share advice as to what has worked and what hasn't, and share job leads.

Have a goal

Set a goal for what you hope to accomplish by attending the event. Is it to learn about an internship opportunity, or to meet two to three new people, or both?

Catching up with people you already know is comfortable and worthwhile as it deepens relationships with those already in your network. However, the point of networking is to meet new people, so limit these conversations to five or 10 minutes and move on.

 Whenever you meet someone new, introduce yourself, tell them about your current role, and figure out a way to ask for their advice on an HR topic.

Plan your outfit

You'll only get one chance to make a first impression, and your appearance is part of that. Wear clothes that fit properly—this will help boost your confidence. Items that are too tight or baggy can be distracting and make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

Choose an outfit that fits the event's tone and is authentic to you. For example, wearing a pair of stylish jeans and an oxford shirt or blazer may be appropriate at a picnic event but are out of place at a formal luncheon or educational event. Accent your clothing with an accessory that speaks to a personal passion (of course, be sure it is appropriate) that can spark a conversation. For example, an appropriate accessory might be a lapel pin that represents your college, a professional association you belong to, or a charity organization you are passionate about.

Break the ice

Starting a conversation might feel like the most difficult part of networking. It can be challenging to break the ice in person or online. When possible, ask someone who knows you both to make an introduction. This can be a college alum, a former or current co-worker, a senior leader, etc. Just as you may benefit from a contact introducing you, be sure to show the same courtesy to your connections.

If you don't have someone who can make an introduction, then try one of these icebreakers:

  • Offer a compliment about someone's accessory, such as their glasses, phone, or handbag. Avoid commenting on a person's overall looks so that the remark is not offensive and does not come across as a pickup line.
  • Ask for simple advice or a recommendation. For example, you might ask, "I'm new to the area, what are your favorite places to eat?"
  • Ask an unexpected low-stakes question like, "What's your favorite song, book or movie?"
  • Talk about the weather, what they do for a living, or if the food is good.

Remember, the other person may also be looking for a way to kick off a conversation; starting with an icebreaker can put them at ease, too.

Have your contact information handy

Be prepared to provide your contact information. Bring business cards (see more below) to in-person events and have your e-mail, phone number, and LinkedIn handle saved and accessible for quick copy and paste in virtual chat settings.

Introduce yourself effectively

In an introduction, make eye contact, smile, and state your first and last names. You should also listen for the other person's name and use it at least twice to help you remember their name.

When someone asks about you, highlight your career interests—use your short 30-60-second elevator pitch. While opportunities to share more information will emerge, being concise at the beginning of the conversation ensures you get your most important points across.

Listen more than you talk

Put the other person at ease by allowing them to go first, so that when you speak they are 100% focused on what you have to say rather than worrying about what they will say.

Ask thoughtful questions

  • Ask questions that prompt more than "yes" or "no" answers.
    Avoid: Do you like working in HR?
    Instead: What do you most enjoy about working in HR?
  • Ask questions that allow them to share their story.
    Example: How did you get into HR?
  • Ask questions unrelated to the HR profession.
    Example: "What have you been reading lately?" or "What's your favorite hobby?"

Remember, effective networking is about having conversations, not interrogating or interviewing the other person. It's okay to have a few questions in mind to help break the ice but listen to their responses and let that guide the conversation.

Be willing to share

Networking is a two-way street. Every person who attends shares similar goals of meeting new, sometimes specific individuals, so don't dominate conversations by talking only about yourself. Leave space for others to have an opportunity to speak.

Since you're relying on others to share information about their experiences and contacts, they'll expect the same from you. Share your contacts and resources. People will be more willing to reciprocate and help you when you share helpful information.

Take notes

It's unlikely you'll remember all that you learned about every person. Jot down important points you want to recall about a conversation with a new connection. Use a small notepad that fits in your purse, use a notes app on your phone, or write a few sentences on the back of the person's business card while at in-person events. Find similar ways to take notes in virtual settings; this will make following up faster and easier.

Follow up

Networking is not a one-and-done deal. Project deadlines, the hustle and bustle of meetings, and daily life can quickly overshadow meeting someone new. After the event, send a follow-up note to the individual(s) you would like to connect with further. This will help you stay on their radar screen amidst their other responsibilities.

Own it

Be yourself! Embrace what makes you unique rather than acting or speaking in ways you think others want to see. By putting yourself out there, you'll stand out from the crowd, be more natural in your conversations, and meet the people who are the right fit for your network.

In-Person Networking Tips

Before leaving for an event, make time to prepare. Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."

Set yourself up for success with the following tips.

Pack these items:

  • Business cards.
  • Mints—save the gum for another time!
  • Pen or pencil.
  • Notepad.
  • A folder or bag to neatly contain any materials you may share or gather during the event.
  • An open mind!

Pro Tip: Purchase a business card holder that fits neatly into a pocket and/or is easy to find inside the bag or purse you plan to bring. This will help to ensure that they are handy, and you are not frantically searching to find one.

Decide on a greeting 

Shaking a new acquaintance's hand or ending a meeting with a firm handshake is a custom dating back to Roman times. However, COVID-19 has changed how comfortable people feel with giving and receiving handshakes. In today's diverse workplaces, it's also important to recognize that—in some cultures or religions—men are not allowed to shake a woman's hand.

Define your comfort level before you go. If you're not up for a handshake, practice politely declining and choose an alternate gesture that feels comfortable, such as a wave or nod. If you decide to shake hands, watch the person you're interacting with for clues to their preference and reciprocate.

Hand out business cards

Offering a business card to a new connection can help them remember you and your conversation the next day or a few weeks later. There are a couple of approaches you can take with business-card design.

If you're looking for a first job, then you can keep it simple with your name, contact information and area of HR interest. Some people like to include a small professional headshot to help recipients recall your meeting more quickly.

Consider the paper and finish. A glossy finish can make it difficult to make notes about a conversation on the back of a card.

Eat and drink wisely

Food and drinks are perks that draw people to events. Eating, however, should be secondary to having good conversations. Avoid talking with food in your mouth, chew with your mouth closed, and pick foods that are easy to consume. When standing, hold a plate or a cup, not both, and always leave your right hand free to greet people (if you decide on the handshake).

If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, then set a limit that allows you to maintain professionalism in interactions throughout the event.

Excusing yourself from a conversation

Plan to spend 10 minutes or less talking with new people. It can be tempting to continue chatting with those you feel comfortable with or already know, but that won't help you meet new people.

Look for an appropriate break in the conversation to excuse yourself and move on to another. Smile, make eye contact, and conclude with a positive statement such as:

  • "It was nice getting to know you. I hope we can continue the conversation later."
  • "It's been a pleasure talking with you."
  • "Thank you for talking with me. May I connect with you in the future?"

Joining Group Conversations

Observe the group dynamics. If the discussion is deep or personal, look for another group to join.
Look for an open space where you can step into the group and wait to be acknowledged before speaking. Listen for ways to contribute rather than control the discussion.

Help others who may want to join in by creating space for them to step in. Initiate introductions during a pause in the conversation.

Look for people to meet

Don't wait for others to make the first effort. Recognize natural opportunities for conversation. Next time you're at a networking event, try these tactics:

  • Look for someone who is standing alone.
  • Look for high-traffic areas, such as seating areas around the food or the ends of the bar.
  • Stand near the event host. You can express appreciation for arranging the event, comment that it's a great event, and ask if there is anyone they think you should meet, if appropriate.

If you notice a person you'd like to meet is on their phone or headed to the restroom, then give them space to take care of business and catch up with them later.

Start with small talk

Initiating a conversation can sometimes feel awkward. Starting small talk around the subject of event itself can help get things rolling.

The next time you're looking for an opening to start a conversation, try these:

  • "Have you attended this event before?"
  • "What session have you enjoyed most in the program?"
  • "Your presentation was really interesting. Could you tell me more about….?"

Current and relevant news related to HR can also be an entry point to a deeper discussion. Stay updated about HR trends and changes so you can be ready to add value to a conversation around these topics. Avoid talking politics.

Virtual Networking Tips

Traditionally, meeting new people took place in person. Today, virtual networking can be as effective as attending in-person events. And attending virtual events can often feel more relaxed and less pressure-fueled than on-site workshops or mixers.

Even though you'll be dialing in from your dorm room or apartment, a little preparation goes a long way in making the most of your time participating.

Find a good spot

Find a quiet location that is free from distractions. If you're sharing a room, an apartment, or a house, you might have to negotiate with your roommate(s) for time and space to conduct your call. When living in a shared space, it's not always possible to have a perfectly quiet setting. Find out if your campus has a space you can use. Many communities have co-working spaces that may provide a good alternative.

Consider your background

Video conferencing invites people into your personal space. What they see helps them form first impressions. Make sure the background others see is not distracting and depicts the professional image you're striving to portray.

You can personalize a background so it is not simply a blank wall but choose carefully and select décor that expresses how you would like to be remembered. If there is artwork or clutter you wouldn't want a boss or colleague to see, then remove it and organize your space accordingly.

Virtual backgrounds, including blurring, are frequently used during video conferencing. However, these are not always the perfect solution. Chances are you've seen a person who has shifted in their seat, and half of their head disappears. Your best option is to grab an appropriate natural space when one becomes available.

Pro Tip: Before joining a professional call, hold a video call with a close friend or family member to see your background and make any adjustments.

Show yourself in the best light, and use the right microphone

Dorm room and home lighting can often be dim and doesn't enhance a video. It can be dark and cast unflattering shadows. Natural lighting can improve a dark room, but sitting in front of a sunny window can be as problematic as low-light scenarios.

Nearly all devices have built-in microphones but may not be high quality. As a result, they may distort the natural tone of your voice or may not amplify it enough to be picked up and heard by other attendees.

Pro Tip: Invest in lighting and an off-computer microphone so that others can clearly see and hear you.

Have a backup plan

Technology can be unpredictable. Connectivity issues can—and do—interrupt conversations, often at the worst time! If something happens, such as your computer screen going blank for a few minutes due to connectivity issues, or losing a cell phone connection, then don't panic—tech issues happen to everyone. Hopefully, it will only be a brief inconvenience. When you're back online (or on the phone) and ready to resume, apologize and return to the conversation.

Pro Tip: For one-on-one calls, have a backup plan that includes reaching out via phone if the connectivity issues are persistent.

Use the chat feature

At in-person events, the hallway and areas around food and beverages are natural locations to meet new people. In virtual networking, the chat feature has become the "conference hallway." Use this function throughout an event to connect with others and find people you would like to follow up with later.

Here are some tips for making the most of the chat function:

  • Drop your name, a one-sentence description about yourself, and your LinkedIn handle into the chat.
  • Participate in discussions and activities. Make contributions in the chat short and relevant to the conversation.
  • Keep LinkedIn open during the event to send and respond to connection requests in real time.

Give it your full focus

It's tempting to multitask during an online educational or networking meet-up, but people on the other side can tell when you're not fully focused. Snooze e-mail and social media alerts—and close any documents you're working on—to give the event your complete attention. Look into the camera as if you were making eye contact at an in-person event and have a notepad handy for taking any notes for a later follow-up.

Dress to impress

Just because you're calling in from the comfort of your apartment or dorm room doesn't mean your appearance doesn't count. You'll still be making a first impression. Choose an outfit that reflects your personal brand, and matches the formality of the event. While others may only see you from your shoulders up, fully dressing for the occasion can get you in the right frame of mind and give you the necessary confidence to establish new connections. Plus, you don't want to be that person you've read about who accidentally stood up mid-call and revealed an unflattering view.

Participate live

Joining events live creates spontaneity and allows for immediate connections. When possible, set aside time to log on in real time. If you're unable to attend an event as it's happening, then recordings and text chats can also be good ways to identify new connections.

Share your attendance

Post on your professional social media accounts that you're attending an upcoming event. It helps show support to the host and puts your name out there. During and after the meeting, share top takeaways or positive experiences from your participation and use the event hashtags to boost your visibility.

Often, online educational events use an app, which includes a place for uploading a brief bio and contact information. Make the most of this feature so others can easily find you and reach out.

Finding Networking Opportunities—Anywhere and Everywhere

Discover networking opportunities through participation in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Join your college chapter and the local professional group—both host many options (in-person and online) for meeting new people.

Also, make the most of the resources available on your school's campus. Consider tapping into these contacts for help expanding your network:

  • College career services office.
  • Professors, faculty, and staff.
  • Alumni.

While you're focused on meeting new people, don't forget about your established connections—especially if they are working professionally in or out of the HR field. They may not know what you've been working on, or what your current aspirations may be, but they may have valuable contacts within their network. Reach out to them to re-establish a connection.

Structured, formal gatherings focused on professional affiliations were once the top places for making new acquaintances. These can still be beneficial but are far from the only option. When you think of the process as making connections rather than networking, you'll see countless opportunities to expand your network. For example, you can share your work and career goals during parties, at community service activities, or at numerous types of social functions.

Twitter and LinkedIn are also great places for finding professionals you would like to get to know personally. Start by following those people on the platform(s) you plan to use. Set alerts to get notified when a person of interest posts.

But you must "work" these platforms to make the most of them. Try this strategy:

  • Note the top 10 to 15 people you most want to get to know. Follow their feeds and/or send a connection request.
  • Look for opportunities to respond to a post they made. Make the comments authentic and those that can add your unique perspective.
  • If you do not receive a reply, follow up a few weeks later and then at three- or six-month intervals. Be persistent but don't flood their inbox. If you don't hear back within a year's time frame, then move on.
  • Alternate the contacts you post/reach out to, and rotate them on a comfortable schedule. You don't want to flood their feeds or send private messages daily, but you should interact often enough to stay familiar.

Share relevant articles and posts related to HR so that others who may have missed them can also see them. As someone new in the profession—or still in college and headed towards an HR career—you shouldn't give advice. Instead, curate good comments you've seen elsewhere. Post something like: "We're all busy, so if you didn't see this on the SHRM website (add a link to an article or resource), it's well worth a read." You'll get some group members posting comments and likes for your efforts, and then you can ask them to connect. Schedule time to do this weekly.

Pro Tip: To find new connections on LinkedIn, use "People Who Have Viewed" your profile. When you see someone of interest show up in this area, make a connection request and send a message. For example, say, "Thank you for stopping by to check out my profile. I would be interested in getting to know more about your work (or role) at XYZ. Would you be open to connecting?"

Expand beyond social media, send a personal message, and invite the person to connect further through phone or video call. While there is a lot of pressure to participate in video calls, suggesting a phone or audio call is okay—"Zoom fatigue" is real for everyone!

  • Be flexible in how you meet the person. Let them choose if they prefer to jump on a call, talk via e-mail, or meet for a cup of coffee. Let them know you're not looking to monopolize their time and appreciate even 15-20 minutes to connect. If it goes well, then it will open opportunities to talk again.
  • Be (politely) persistent. Acknowledge that you understand they may be really busy. Courteously ask if they saw an earlier note sent and if they may have an opportunity to respond.  

Tips for Writing Networking Messages

Networking messages—that clearly express your intent—are the most effective. Whether you are requesting career advice, asking for an introduction, or saying thank you, use language that is authentic to you and appropriate for a professional connection.


The first paragraph should explain who you are and why you are contacting them. Keep it concise. When possible, create a connection to catch their attention. Consider referencing a presentation you heard them give or a shared connection.

Example: My internship supervisor, John Jones, suggested talking with you to learn more about [the work climate, an HR trend, etc.] within [INSERT COMPANY NAME]. I am reaching out to request a time to meet to hear your thoughts.  

Next Paragraph

Describe why this meeting is important to you and make it convincing by including details about your interest in the industry, connection to the location, or topic you're looking to learn more about.

Example: My dream has always been to work in the HR field because I feel passionate about [insert what the impact you'd like to have or why you're interested in HR]. I am majoring in HR [or recently graduated] at [insert college/university name] and am looking to learn more about companies where I may want to work. I learned about [insert company name] and was impressed by [insert a note about culture, type of work, etc.]. I am reaching out to see if there is an opportunity to learn more about the organization and what it looks for in job candidates.


Express your appreciation for their time and include information on how they can reach you.


  • "Thank you in advance for your time. I look forward to speaking with you. Please feel free to respond via e-mail at or by phone at (555) 123-4567."
  • "I appreciate your expertise and welcome an opportunity to talk with you. You may reach me via e-mail at or by phone at (555) 123-4567."

Read and reread

Set aside time to proofread and edit the message, so it is as error-free as possible.

  • Use online grammar checkers to help you spot obvious mistakes.
  • Find the "Read Aloud" function on your computer and listen to the note to be sure it sounds professional and polished.
  • Ask a professor or mentor to review and offer a critique.

Pro Tip: Save this networking message language—perhaps in Word document form, or maybe in an e-mail folder—so that it is easy to locate. Use it as a template but edit the introduction to fit the scenario. Having this handy can save you the time of recreating it from scratch whenever you want to reach out to someone new.

Before hitting send

Create a subject line that catches the recipient's attention.


  • "Love what you're doing at…." (Use this for an organization you've been following or admire.)
  • "Loved what you said in your presentation"
  • "Referred by…"

Use a greeting that sets the tone, such as "Hi Ms…," "Good morning Dr…," or "Dear Mr…."

Copy and paste your note into the e-mail.

Make it easy for the individual to respond by including a signature line and a link to an appointment calendar. Calendly is a popular automation tool for scheduling e-mails, but there are many platforms. Most offer free and paid versions.

Warm Regards,
John Smith
Use this link (Insert the hyperlink) to schedule time to talk.

Pro Tip: At the end of your signature, include a quote that captures what is most important to you personally and professionally.
Example: "If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are an excellent leader." Dolly Parton

Additional Resources

It takes time and practice—as well as patience—to become comfortable with networking.

While networking does not entail standing in front of an audience and delivering a presentation, developing your public speaking skills can provide added confidence in meeting new people. Consider enrolling in a public-speaking course at your campus or joining a Toastmasters club, which teaches public speaking and leadership skills.

There are also many great books that take an in-depth look at forming deep, effective networking connections, and that share strategies for building impactful relationships. These are some examples of popular books that may help you along in your networking journey:

  • Scott Gerber & Ryan Paugh, Super Connector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter
  • Adam Grant, Give and Take
  • Susan McPherson, The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion
  • Judy Robinett, Dina Pearlman, et al., How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits