Building Connections

As you progress throughout your career, it can be useful to build connections or what is referred to as a ‘professional network.’ Not only does it keep you in touch with other relevant professionals in your field, but they can be valuable assets when it’s time to search for opportunities.  

Students tend to think of building connections as optional, but they are not for anyone who wants to save themselves a lot of time and energy, as well as increase their access to opportunities and social capital. If there are two equally qualified candidates, a company is more likely to interview and hire the one who has been vouched for by a recruiter or internal employee through a referral than not. Not because they know someone, but because they took the time to better understand the company and how they’d be a good match. With only 27% of graduating seniors taking this extra step (according to a recent Strada survey), making the effort can really provide a competitive edge now and in the future.  

When building a network, it can be helpful to pretend like you’ve been given a homework assignment to research three professionals in a field or company you’re interested in. There are several ways to conduct this research, but one of the easier ways is to request informational interviews.  

Informational Interviews

These are brief conversations where you can ask a professional what it’s like to work in their role/company/industry, as well as learn more about the company culture, also known as what they value and how they treat their employees.  

Before you request an informational interview, you’ll want to prepare for one. Read this article, as well as create your own list of questions you’d like to ask beforehand. Sample questions are provided below:  

  • What class prepared you the most for your first job?  
  • What do you like most about your current job? 
  • What does a typical day at work look like for you?  
  • Do you have any advice for someone just getting started in this field? 
  • How did you find your first job?
  • Are there any industry trends I should investigate?
  • Is there anyone else you suggest I speak with about my career interests?

If you end up speaking with a recruiter instead of a technical professional, be sure to tailor your questions towards the company itself, or the opportunities they are recruiting for; you can ask things like ‘How do you define success in this role?’, ‘How does your company ensure everyone feels like they belong?’, or ‘How can I follow-up on our conversation or my application submission?’. Be sure to send a thank you email after your conversation and try to stay in touch, so it’s more sustainable.  

While you can search for relevant professionals online, the methods below are most frequently used by students. It can be helpful to create SMART goals for yourself, like ‘I will reach out to three software developers in the Seattle area before I begin my job search in September’ or ‘I will attend one employer information session or networking event each semester’. 


According to a recent Jobvite survey, 72% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to search for qualified talent. If you’re not visible on the site, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities and ways to connect with relevant professionals. Here is some useful information to get started and/or improve your existing profile:  

Once you’ve set up your profile, you’ll want to connect with people you already know – friends, family, classmates, Pitt professors/staff, etc. It’s important to connect with them even if they’re not in the same field as you are – you never know who your aunt may know or your coworker from your retail job last summer.  

Since Pitt alumni have been in your shoes before, they can be an excellent source of information. LinkedIn has an easy feature to search for them by what they studied, where they work, live, etc. here. This tool can be especially useful if you’re not sure where SCI students are working, the career options available, or if you plan to move after graduation and want to connect with others in that location.  

The University of Pittsburgh also purchased LinkedIn Learning for students to use, which you can access via the portal. It’s an excellent way to build and showcase your skills (technical or not) to potential employers! 

Pitt Commons

Pitt Commons is an online platform established to facilitate meaningful, customized networking opportunities for students with their peers as well as University staff, faculty, alumni, postdocs, and friends of Pitt. It provides you with a convenient, exclusive online space for connection, professional development, and career planning. 

To learn more and how to get started, check out their Students page here.

Event Participation

SCI, as well as the University, provide several ways to interact with relevant professionals throughout the academic year, both on and off-campus. There are networking nights, Alumni-in-Residence workshops and office hours, company site visits, and more.  

Be sure to take advantage of all these great events by checking out the Events page on this site, Handshake, and the SCI event calendar. 

Professional Organizations & Groups

While student organizations are a great way to network with other students and guest speakers, there are numerous ways to interact with professionals already in the field. Here are some examples of local organizations that might be of interest: 

Students also have access to discounted memberships in relevant professional organizations, such as IEEE and ACM, and can attend conferences, such as Grace Hopper and TAPIA. Information regarding sponsored conference registrations is most commonly disseminated through departmental and SCI related newsletters.