Growing Your Career

Making Networking Work For You (Rachel Serwetz, WOKEN)

Rachel Serwetz from WOKEN shares seven steps to make networking work for you.

May 17, 2024
 min read
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Making Networking Work For You (Rachel Serwetz, WOKEN)

We’ve talked about the idea of networking for decades now, but in 2024, let’s reimagine what networking truly means, how to approach the networking process, and how to ensure that the process can be both comfortable and effective to help you progress towards your career goals.

For the purposes of this blog, I define networking as hosting one-on-one informational chats (20-30 minute phone or video calls) in order to meet other professionals and both share and gain value. Networking can also be thought of as joining events or conferences in bigger groups, but one of the most important things you can do is meet people individually to learn from them and to see how they can help you progress closer towards your career goal, as the steps below will guide you through.

Step 1: Get your Mindset Right

It’s important to first recognize and then alleviate any limiting beliefs, hesitations, or concerns you have about networking. 

A lot of people struggle with the idea of asking for help. Rather than thinking of networking as asking for help, frame the activity as a way for you to add value to another person and for them to do the same. Consider if you were at a conference talking to the person sitting next to you, what might the two of you talk about? You have perspective, skills, knowledge, ideas, and questions that can make for a valuable conversation. Remember, it is not only a one-sided conversation. 

There are several common fears about networking, but whatever your hesitation may be, take time to chat with a peer, mentor, coach, or any trusted advisor to work through your feelings to ensure you can find a way to approach networking in a way that feels natural to you. For more on this, check out this blog that debunks limiting beliefs here or check out the pre-networking meditation here.

Step 2: Clarify Your Goals

You can pursue networking for several different reasons, so you’d first want to reflect on and clarify what your goals are for the networking calls that you’re holding. You might consider some of the below reasons to host a networking call.

  • Do you want to clarify which role title is the best fit for you and understand the day to day of certain roles better?
  • Are you seeking to understand the patterns or trends of who typically gets hired into a certain role or how to make a certain career pivot?
  • Do you want to understand certain industries better? 
  • Are you exploring different sizes or stages of companies and how their culture varies? 
  • Are you aiming to understand which upskilling opportunities are most reputable or worthwhile for you to pursue? 
  • Are you seeking feedback on your job materials? 
  • Are you hoping to do a mock interview?
  • Are you aiming to identify open roles and work opportunities? 
  • Are you seeking introductions? 
  • Are you seeking suggestions for resources like information or networking groups? 
  • Are you seeking perspective, wisdom, guidance, or mentorship? 

I suggest utilizing the time to learn as much as you can. Based on these learnings, you can reflect to see if this new information influences your career direction, efforts, or strategies.

Step 3: Find the Right Professional Connections

Many people think they don’t have a strong network, but don’t assume that you know who your network knows! Consider what would happen if you asked your personal connections to make some introductions for you. Consider the variety of connections you have already or can create. For instance, think about your family, friends, acquaintances, past colleagues, alumni networks, mutual connections, contacts made through social organizations or hobbies, as well as cold connections. Open your mind to see where you can find introductions or join new groups to expand your network to meet new relevant people.

Step 4: Craft Compelling Outreach Messages

When you reach out to a potential networking connection, be as thoughtful as you can be; this will go a very long way in inciting a higher rate of positive responses. While you may be tempted to ask someone to “pick their brain,” take an extra few minutes so that you can get more specific on what exactly you would want to learn about from that person and mention three to five brief, authentic topic areas. This will show someone that you’re prepared to use their time wisely and make it easier for them to respond favorably to your message. 

Also, don’t forget to ensure your message is crystal clear. Read it back or have a peer read it to ensure it makes sense. 

Lastly, don’t hold back in being direct to make your ask. Oftentimes people forget the exact question they were truly hoping to ask, so don’t hold back here, otherwise, they won’t know how to answer or help you! Something like, “are you free for 15-20 minutes in the next week or two to set up an informational meeting so I can learn from you?” or “do you know anyone in [roles or industries] to introduce me to?”

Step 5: Strategically Prepare for Networking Calls

Your preparation prior to a scheduled networking call is your underrated key to success. If you take just twenty minutes to reflect on where your open gaps are, what you’re not sure of and could use more information, and where you’re struggling, this will ensure you get what you need out of the call, and that the call itself moves you forward with new information and insights to inform your efforts. Phrase your questions carefully so that the person can most clearly tune in their answer to what you need.

Step 6: Know How to Properly Run the Networking Call

Once you get onto an informational call, you can open up the call by letting the person know that you have a brief agenda prepared, and set context for where you’re at in your career so they understand the framing for the call (perhaps you’re new to a certain industry, or perhaps you’re making a pivot, etc). This will help them level-set their responses to meet you where you are at.

In addition, don’t be afraid to be honest on the call. If they mention something interesting to you, double down and ask follow up questions. If they mention something that is not as interesting to you, you can share more of what it is you do want to hear about. This will allow them to get to know you, your strengths, and help find the place in the organization where you best align. 

Allow the person to lend their widest perspective. Rather than only asking about their role, you can start at a higher level to understand more about their department, various adjacent teams, their direct team, their higher ups, and of course, their role. You can even ask about competitors, vendors, agencies, consultants, or external parties that they liaise with. By taking this approach, you’ll understand where you may best fit in their organization or in the industry at large.

Step 7: Make Your Ask and Follow Up

One of the most important parts of networking is making your ask clear (at the end of the call itself) as well as following up on what the person offered to help you with (perhaps making an introduction, sharing resources, a referral, or passing along your resume). Some people will end a networking call without mentioning where they stand with their career goals and asking a few concrete questions to see how the other person can add value; don’t forget to be direct and state your ask! Once you do ask how they can help, see what they offer to do for you, and don’t forget to send an email afterwards both thanking them and reiterating what they offered to do for you. 

While networking can feel daunting at times, once you master it, it can both be fun and strategic for you. Networking will ensure you get yourself in front of the right audiences who will help to advocate for you and help you progress and grow to the next professional level. 

For more help with networking or other career questions or goals, please visit or book a free career coaching call here.

About Rachel Serwetz

Rachel Serwetz' early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 6.5+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School/WeWork, Columbia University, and Project Activate. Learn more about WOKEN here:

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Growing Your Career

Making Networking Work For You (Rachel Serwetz, WOKEN)

May 17, 2024
 min read
Making Networking Work For You (Rachel Serwetz, WOKEN)