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Pulling Strings: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Basic Connections to Get a Job or Internship

Nicholas Cage. Amanda Hearst. Dylan Lauren. Kate Hudson. What do all of these celebrities have in common? They’ve used their family connections to land top jobs in the industry of their choice. Now, you may not be the heiress of a mega-corporation, but almost everyone has a basic network composed of friends, family, school, and organizations that can ultimately help you land an internship or job after graduation. We’ve shared how to network with professionals, but what about people you already know or may know through a few degrees of separation? Here, HC lists five tips on proper networking etiquette with folks in your personal network. Read on! 

Reach Out via E-mail

According to Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? author and resume expert at the Columbia Publishing Course in New York, Ellen Gordon Reeves, 80 percent of “all jobs fall into a ‘hidden job market’—an area in which jobs are not publicly advertised and are filled by word of mouth.” This is where reaching out to family and friends is increasingly essential. Don’t feel badly if a parent or sibling lands you an interview—it’s how the world works! E-mail is a non-invasive method of contacting someone, so spend some time crafting a basic professional template. Be very specific as you communicate your focus; you want to ensure that the person you’re contacting is clear on what you’re asking for. Try something like this:

Hi Ms. Taylor,

My name is Gennifer Delman and your former professor Carol Raup suggested I reach out to you. She mentioned she loved chatting with you at last week’s New York Women in Communications event.

I’m a junior journalism major at Hofstra and am actively involved on and off my college campus in the world of magazine media. Carol mentioned that your business publishes monthly publications and could use some help from a college student. Might you have any free time in the near future to meet with me to discuss any opportunities at your company? I’d love to learn more about the company as well as your success in this industry. I’ve attached my resume for your convenience.

Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

All the best,


Once you begin reaching out and hearing back from professionals, enter their titles and contact information into an Excel document. This will be your own virtual Rolodex for future reference.  Keep track of when you contacted them, if you heard back, and what the last communication with them entailed. 

Not Every Connection is a Professional Connection

Writer and entrepreneur G.L. Hoffman explains this in a July 2010 article for US News & World Report. “Don’t assume personal friendship transfers to a professional relationship,” he advises. “Just because you play softball with someone does not mean he can find you a job at his company or properly present you and your skills to the right person.” This applies to anyone in your life, from peers in your major to your friends’ parents. To avoid placing them in an awkward position, make sure you ask if they feel comfortable suggesting any contacts for an “in” at a certain company. Asking, rather than demanding or pressuring someone, is key here.

This is the same if someone is trying to ask you for a connection in a particular industry. Don’t feel obligated to reveal anything unless you’re comfortable and trust this person’s capabilities as a worker. Explain to them that there is a separation between social and professional life and you’d rather keep this separation present.  

Keep it Mutually Beneficial

When it comes to career advice and potential internship or job opportunities, reaching out to the people in your life should be a win-win for both parties involved. Emailing an old camp counselor who snagged a New York City fashion job? Before you press “send” on that e-mail, consider what you can offer the person in return for their hospitality. Ask yourself, “How can we all work together?” or “How can I help this person if not now but in the future?” Perhaps your club at school can volunteer for a day at their business or work on their social media strategy. Either way, consider not only what you will get out of this interaction, but the benefits the professional will reap as well. Try adding something like this to your email:

“In addition, I would love to discuss potential partnerships or ways I could assist you in the future. I run a public relations society at school so I have plenty of ideas!”

This will encourage future interactions and if they’re interested, mention what you can do for them in a follow-up e-mail. Email is meant to be a short and sweet form of communication, so you won’t want to overwhelm the person with too many ideas all at once. Ultimately, keeping things favorable on both ends will ensure a stronger relationship. 

Be Appreciative and Respectful

Playing off of the previous tip: If the person you reach out to responds and offers you some advice or even a referral, show your gratitude! Write a personalized thank you note that is very specific to your conversations. Avoid a general “It was a pleasure talking with you, keep in touch!” note to personalize it and have it be more memorable. For example, if you are thanking an alumnus who was a member of your school club, mention how it’s doing and invite him or her to campus. It’s a way of tying in something the person feels connected to and encourages further communication.

You should also stay appreciative and respectful even if things don’t work out. Let’s say a connection helps you land an interview at their company but you have to turn it down because another internship or job with higher pay opens up. Fill them in that you will be pursuing another opportunity but are super grateful for the chance to work at Company “X.” Mention that you will stay in touch over the next few months. Since they did a favor for you, taking the time to thank them for their help shows respect and good character.

Don’t Pester the Same Folks

If you’ve sent along a polite email to Aunt Cindy’s friend and don’t hear back after a week or two, feel free to follow up once more. No response after all that? Three words: Let it go! Don’t waste your time trying to get someone to spend time with you if they’re not interested. Becoming a nuisance by constantly following up is a surefire way to get on their bad side.

Ever see an internship posting on ed2010.com where an editor requests, “No follow up emails please, we will contact you if there’s interest”? Keep this in mind when dealing with professionals who simply aren’t interested in meeting with you. It’s a learning experience for the real world, so don’t take it personally and move forward with your networking endeavors.

There you have it, HCers! With these tips at your disposal, we’re sure you’ll be able to network like a total pro. Let us know what your favorite networking etiquette tips are in the comments section below.

Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview by Ellen Gordon Reeves

Gennifer is the Branded Content Specialist for Her Campus Media. In her role, she manages all sponsored content across platforms including editorial, social, and newsletters. As one of HC's first-ever writers, she previously wrote about career, college life, and more as a national writer during her time at Hofstra University. She also helped launch the How She Got There section, where she interviewed inspiring women in various industries. She lives in New York City.