Connect effectively

Networking is an essential part of managing your career, now and in the future. Here’s how to make meaningful connections.

In this section

The benefits of networking

Networking is about building and maintaining professional relationships, not just landing a job. Over time, your contacts may provide valuable tips, advice, insights and introductions. If done thoughtfully, networking can be a powerful tool, one that connects you with people who enrich your professional life — and you can do the same for others.


Networking can help you:

    • Meet new contacts and strengthen existing relationships
    • Learn about different jobs, industries, career paths and job search strategies
    • Stay current on developments in your own industry
    • Find out how people got where they are in their professional lives
    • Understand a company’s culture and what makes a person “fit”
    • Gain exposure and build your professional brand or reputation
    • Find advertised employment opportunities (the “active job market”)
    • Find unadvertised employment opportunities (the “hidden job market”)
    • Keep up your job search momentum
Tapping the hidden job market


Studies have found that up to 75% of jobs aren’t advertised, so job seekers who rely solely on postings likely miss out on a wealth of opportunities. And for jobs that are advertised, candidates who apply early — perhaps before jobs are even posted — are more likely to get an employer’s attention.

Identify your network

You already have a network — even if you’re new to networking! Everyone you know is a potential source of information, introductions and job leads, so don’t limit yourself to work and school contacts. Make a list of people in these categories:


    • Family members and friends
    • Classmates and professors
    • Faculty and friends from your undergraduate years
    • Rotman alumni
    • Colleagues
    • Former employers and co-workers
    • LinkedIn connections
    • Professional associations
    • Religious/spiritual organizations
    • Community organizations, volunteering
    • Political parties
    • Sports teams, gym, hobbies
    • Professionals (lawyer, accountant, realtor, doctor, dentist, insurance agents)
    • Superintendent or property management
    • Hairdresser and other service providers
    • Neighbours
    • People met while travelling
    • Newcomers from your home country


Most people are happy to help if they’re approached professionally and the “ask” of them isn’t onerous. Many people also enjoy talking about themselves: their jobs, their accomplishments and their life journeys. See below for tips about meeting with contacts.


How to approach someone professionally

    • Use a professional greeting. When emailing the contact, use a formal greeting (“Dear Mr. [last name]” or “Dear Ms. [last name]”), not a casual “Hey, [first name].” (Do not use “Mrs.”).
    • Respect the person’s time. Don’t ask if the contact can meet in the next day or two. Instead, ask if they might be available to meet for 20 minutes in the next few weeks.
    • Don’t ask for a job. When you meet with the contact, never ask for a job. This puts them on the spot and could embarrass them.
    • Don’t ask for more contacts. You can ask if there’s anyone they think you should talk to next, but it’s up to them to offer an introduction.
    • Be professional and polite. If, for some reason, you think the person won’t be helpful to your career, do not abruptly end the meeting. (Yes, this happens!)
    • Send a thank you email. Thank the person for their time and advice.



People you don’t know

For people you want to meet — such as Rotman alumni or people you find on LinkedIn — think about what you might have in common. If you can establish a “commonality of experience,” it’s often easier to get a meeting. For example, do you work in the same industry? Did you immigrate from the same part of the world? Did you both switch careers in mid-life? Do you share a similar interest or hobby? If you can’t establish a commonality of experience, draw on people’s natural willingness to help others. Clearly explain why you’d like to meet, and make it easy and convenient for them.


You can also expand your network through professional associations, industry conferences, and events organized by boards of trade, chambers of commerce and other organizations.

Your personal brand and career story


Before you start networking, spend some time developing Your Personal Brand and Career Story.

Networking events

During your time at Rotman, you’ll have many networking opportunities, including industry speaker events, Information Sessions, club events and much more. Here’s how to get the most out of each event.


  1. Be prepared.


Approach networking events with a game plan. Whether you’re attending a conference, a dinner party or a group event, find out who will be there, research their backgrounds and prepare a few questions. Practise your networking career story. If attending in person, bring business cards.


  1. Take the initiative.


Meeting new people can feel intimidating. If you’re nervous or shy, you’re probably not alone, and others will welcome the opportunity to talk if you start a conversation. Try starting with “Hello, I’m ________. What brings you to this event?” or “Hi, I’m ________. How do you know (event organizer)?” From there, ask open-ended questions that get the other person talking about themselves and their professional life. Listen attentively — that’s the most valuable skill in networking. If you’re at a professional event, consider offering your business card.

Business card etiquette


Yes, business cards still matter! Master’s students are expected to have them handy, especially at in-person recruitment events. Keep these tips in mind:


  • Only offer a business card to people you’ve had a conversation with and intend to follow up with.
  • Offer your card first, and if the other person doesn’t reciprocate, ask for theirs.
  • If you get someone’s business card, follow up via email or LinkedIn within a day or two.

  1. Offer to help others.


Networking isn’t about an end goal (such as getting a job). Think about what expertise you can offer to others. Helping someone often builds a stronger relationship, and they’ll be more likely to help you in the future.


  1. Follow up and stay connected.


A day or two after a networking opportunity, follow up with your new contacts via email or LinkedIn. If appropriate, send a thank you note to the event organizer and anyone who went out of their way to help you. Mention something they said during the conversation, to show you were listening. Consider staying in touch by sending them relevant information you come across (industry-related news, conferences, etc.).


  1. Stay organized.


Keep track of your networking activities, including events, people you meet, contact information, job titles, how you met, subsequent conversations, next steps, etc.

Job Search Tracker


To keep track of your networking activities, download the Career Services Job Search Tracker Excel workbook, which contains four spreadsheets:

  • LAMP List
  • Target Connections (who, when, where, etc.)
  • Applications and Interviews
  • Personal Job Search Metrics (goals for your search)

Informational meetings and coffee chats

Informational meetings and coffee chats offer a more structured way to connect one-on-one. These are valuable opportunities to gain knowledge about an industry or a job you’re interested in, and to build relationships with potential decision makers, managers and key insiders within your target companies.


  1. Decide who you want to meet and why.


What do you hope to learn? For example, meeting with an employee of a company you’re curious about could provide insight into what it’s like to work there, and whether the company culture aligns with your values. Your objective is to gain information and build your contacts, not ask for a job.

Why you should never ask for a job


Asking a networking contact to give you a job is overwhelming and an undue burden, and it may embarrass them. If you develop a good rapport with the contact during the meeting, they will likely tell you about opportunities without being prompted. They may also be willing to introducing you to a colleague. If so, draft an email for them to forward along, so that you can shape the message and avoid taking up too much of your contact’s time.

2. Request a meeting.


Send an invitation via email or LinkedIn. Steve Dalton, author of The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job FASTER, created a “4 Point Email” template for meeting requests:


    1. Limit your email to 100 words.
    2. Don’t mention jobs anywhere.
    3. Mention your connection first (this is key when contacting alumni)
    4. Generalize your interest (mention why you’d like to meet, without going into too much detail).


See “Tips for effective emails,” below, for more guidance.


A copy of The 2-Hour Job Search is available at Rotman’s Milt Harris Library.



  1. Prepare for the meeting.


Treat networking meetings as you would client meetings: arrive prepared and be ready to lead!


Research the person’s background, their company and trends in their industry. Write a list of questions, and be specific. “I read about your company’s recent acquisitions in Chile, and I’m curious about the challenges it faced in that transition” is more focused than “Tell me about your company’s recent acquisitions in Chile.” (More about questions below.)


Be mindful of what your contact can realistically answer or discuss, based on their position in the organization. Also consider the individual and the circumstances of the meeting. Be sensitive and aware of how someone might interpret your questions. You want to build trust and connect with the person, which will increase your chances of getting an introduction to someone else in their network.


Other preparations:

    • Customize your career story for this person and practice saying it.
    • If meeting in person:
      • Print a copy of your resume, just in case
      • Pack your business cards, a notepad and two pens


  1. Strive for a productive meeting.


  • Show up early. Be very respectful of your contact’s time.
  • Try to come across as informed and curious, and as a good listener. Take notes, including personal details they mention (for example, hobbies, events or upcoming vacations). You can refer to these details in future correspondence.
  • Don’t go over your allotted time. Say something like: “I promised I would only take 30 minutes, and our time is just about up.” You’ll get a sense of whether or not the contact is willing to stay longer.
  • At the end of the meeting, give the appropriate thanks and inquire if there is someone else they recommend you speak to for additional advice and information. Give your contact a business card (if in person) and ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Send your contact a thank you email or card within a day or two. It’s polite, and it gives you another opportunity to make contact. Consider keeping in touch by sending information that may be of value to your contact (industry news, conferences, etc.).
  • If a mutual acquaintance facilitated the meeting for you, send a thank you note.



Meeting questions


Download the Informational Meeting Questions list and check out the TIARA: Questions for informational meetings section in our Job search strategies section for ideas on what to ask. These lists are just starting points — always tailor your questions for each person. Avoid generic questions and any that could easily be answered with a Google search. You want to make the best use of your limited time together!

Networking at work


If you’re a working professional Master’s student, try these four strategies to expand your connections within your company:


  1. Volunteer for committees and events.
  2. Ask to work on projects where you have access to senior leaders and/or work cross-functionally.
  3. Talk to people in other departments — every person knows something that could be helpful to you.
  4. Stay current on potential opportunities across the organization.

Tips for effective emails

  1. We use the term “coffee chat” here at Rotman, but it may not be well understood elsewhere. Instead of asking for a coffee chat, invite people out for coffee, as shown below.


  1. When sending an email invitation, use a clear subject line, such as:

Network with Rotman student

Coffee chat request from Rotman student


  1. In your email, include what you’d like to discuss (without going into too much detail), and ask if the person is available to meet for 20 minutes in the next few weeks. Suggest a location that’s convenient for your invitee — and if they prefer a video chat or it is more convenient for a video chat due to different geographic locations, so be it. Remember, they’re doing you a favour.


  1. If you don’t know the person well, don’t address them by their first name. Use “Mr.” or “Ms.” followed by their surname. Check their LinkedIn profile to see if they’ve indicated their gender pronouns.


  1. In the first paragraph, state the field, industry, company or type of work you’re interested in.


  1. Also in the first paragraph, explain how you heard about the person (e.g., you found them on LinkedIn or in the Rotman alumni directory, a mutual acquaintance suggested you get in touch, you heard them speak at a conference), and why you’re getting in touch (“[Name] suggested that I speak to you as she thinks highly of your experience in [subject]” or “I enjoyed hearing you speak about [subject] at Rotman on [date] and I’d like to learn more.”)


  1. Make sure you’re asking the right person for the information you want. Avoid being too general. For example, if you write that you want to learn more about “marketing in retail companies,” your target may not understand why you chose them (as there are many, many people in marketing in retail companies). Tailor your request to their specific expertise.


  1. Don’t just say you want to learn about the “company culture.” Culture is made up of many things: behavioural norms, approaches to teamwork, values, priorities, what gets celebrated and how, etc. Be more specific.


  1. Give the person seven business days to reply before following up. If you don’t hear back within a few days of your second message, move on to another contact in that company or industry.



Sample email


NOTE: Do not copy the sample below and use it verbatim. Rewrite all the highlighted text in your own words, or draft a new message using the tips above.


Dear _________________,


I’m a first/second-year M[BA, MA, FRM, Fin] student at Rotman with a strong interest in [company]. I located your profile on LinkedIn and see that you’ve been at [company] many years and are also a Rotman [alumnus/alumna].


Before starting my MBA, I worked in a sales function for three years in close coordination with the marketing team. I’m eager to learn about [subject] at [company] and would enjoy hearing about your experience there, [company]’s approach to brand management and any advice you have for succeeding in this line of work.


I would really appreciate the opportunity to connect with you. Might you be available for a 20-minute coffee meeting in the next few weeks? I would be happy to meet at a location, or via an online meeting, and time convenient to you.




(Include a signature line with your name, your contact information and a link to your LinkedIn profile.)

Tip: Often an online meeting is easier for people to accommodate, so don’t hesitate to suggest it!

The Rotman Network

Rotman provides a wealth of opportunities to make connections. Take advantage of the events, tools and clubs you have access to.


  1. Your classmates


Your classmates are a good first point of contact to learn more about a specific industry, company, role or job function. Refer to the Peer-to-Peer Spreadsheet that will be available in October to find out where current students are working or have worked.


  1. Rotman Connect


The benefits of being part of the Rotman community include having access to alumni who are willing to help. Rotman Connect boasts over 8,500 alumni who you can message directly for advice, mentorship, insights, contacts, expertise and informational meetings. Take advantage of the alumni directory by downloading the Rotman Connect app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play, updating your profile and contacting alumni in your target industry. If you have any questions about Rotman Connect, you can contact Thiadora Botros at on the Alumni Engagement Team.


Note: Rotman alumni should not be your first point of contact for networking. Put simply, Rotman alumni could be decision-makers at their respective organizations. You need to create the best first impression by demonstrating you’ve done your homework before reaching out.


  1. Rotman events


Each year, Rotman hosts about 100 events, including public talks by international bestselling authors, industry nights, case competitions, workshops, book launches and speaker series featuring top management executives and other thought leaders. Not only do these events provide stimulating views, but they also offer opportunities to meet alumni, classmates and executives in your field of interest. See what’s coming up.


Treat all events as networking opportunities and — particularly when representatives from an industry or a company are present — as “quasi-interviews.” The impression you make on people will impact your job search success.


    • Research the company, roles and speakers/guests (for example, on LinkedIn).
    • Prepare a few thoughtful questions. A thoughtful question is:
      • One that can be answered in a few sentences (i.e., doesn’t require a deep, theoretical discussion)
      • One that is directly relevant to the person’s company and their role
      • One that has a purpose — ask something you want to know about, not simply to show off your knowledge (ask yourself “What do I hope to learn through this question that will help me in my search/understanding of this line of work?”)
      • One that does not risk offending (e.g., don’t ask the VP of Marketing why the company’s latest campaign was so badly received)
    • Customize and practice your career story.
    • Dress the part — it matters.
    • Show up on time.
    • Do not use or look at your phone/devices during the entire event. It sends a clear message to our guests and others that your mind and priorities are elsewhere.
    • Introduce yourself when you ask a question (no need to thank the speakers or guests — the event organizer will do that).
    • Focus on the speakers, not the food at in person events (when the session breaks to the networking component, network!).
    • Share face time — don’t be “that person” who crowds everyone else out or interrupts another student’s conversation.
    • Have fun! These events are wonderful opportunities to test out your ideas about what industries, companies or roles might suit you. Students often leave events with a great deal of interest and excitement about a company that they didn’t have going in.



  1. Rotman alumni on LinkedIn


To find out where Rotman alumni are working, visit Rotman School of Management’s LinkedIn page and click “Alumni.”


Students in their graduating year may submit a request to join the official Rotman Alumni Network on LinkedIn.


Tips for connecting with Rotman alumni

Access to a large number of successful professionals in a wide range of industries is one of the most valuable career tools that Rotman offers. Take full advantage of the opportunity, but know the rules of the game before starting.


A Rotman alumna kindly provided this valuable networking advice:


Just a note regarding the alumni directory and the requests that come from students based on our listings in that directory. I really think that this directory is a wonderful thing and I’m always pleased to get requests from Rotman students and to hear that they are interested in my firm. It’s great that we’re still generating interest even though we haven’t been very prominent with recruiting.


Having received a number of calls/emails from students over the past couple of months, I thought I’d pass on a few pointers, in hopes they’d be helpful:


    • Emails are always better than a phone call for a first introduction — we’re often working irregular hours, and it’s difficult to find an appropriate moment to return a call. I can always find a moment to send an email, and via email will schedule a mutually acceptable time to chat.
    • It’s better to indicate that you’re interested in learning more about the company rather than requesting a summer (or full-time) job.
    • Be careful about gender on the salutation (it always catches me off-guard to be called Mr. when I am a Ms.).
    • Extend an open request to chat instead of asking for a response by a certain date (asking for a response “today or tomorrow” expresses disrespect for my potentially busy agenda). I want to help and provide information, but often cannot find the time on short notice.
    • Reach out to just one person at a time from a company and try another person only if you don’t get a response — we often talk to each other, and find out that we’ve all spent time responding with the same information to the same person.
    • Don’t worry too much about selling yourself or your program in an introductory email — it’s enough to know that you’re a fellow Rotman student and are interested in the company. It’s difficult to find time to sift through long emails.

Maintaining your network

A healthy network doesn’t spring up overnight. It requires ongoing awareness, care and maintenance — don’t let yours languish. Questions to keep in mind:


    • Do I regularly add new people?
    • Do I reach out to contacts beforeI need something from them?
    • How often do I hear from contacts?
    • Am I contributing and sharing posts that are relevant to my target industry?
    • Am I linking people, ideas and opportunities that only I could bring together?

Learn more

Next steps


Next: Managing your search