Know Your Network — It’s Bigger than You Think!

IU alumna Sophie Wang speaks with a student after a panel discussion during Connect ’19.

I have lived in Bloomington for almost 30 years. Everywhere I go, I see multiple people I know: in the store, at the movies, on the playground.  People will say to me, how do you know so many people?  When you live in one place for long enough your range of friends and acquaintances becomes vast. You know people from all the jobs you’ve worked, parents from the schools your kids have attended, and other activities. Add to that all the people you meet through your spouse and their jobs and activities and it is easy to know many people. 

In time, you will also grow a vast network. It’s already more sophisticated than you think it is. There are two types of networks: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic Network
Our intrinsic networks are a natural net of people who participate in your orbit. Your network naturally changes and grows as you change and grow. With social media, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with high school friends, co-workers from our first jobs, and even our friends’ parents.  Some of these people may stay in your network as you grow up, change jobs or schools, or even form families.

Your Intrinsic Network could already include:

  • Teammates
  • Classmates
  • Co-workers
  • Club Members
  • Roommates

Extrinsic Network
This network consists of people we pursue deliberately because we have some need to learn about something. This network could grow by:

  • Texting someone recommended by a friend who has taken the same trip you want to take
  • Connecting with someone on LinkedIn who has an interesting job you want to know more about and inviting them to have coffee
  • Getting to know people in a company for which you want to work

 All of these additions to our network are often more deliberate. We need to think more specifically about who we might want to meet to help us get to the next career step, to gain some critical understanding of an industry, or to learn what a career market is like in a place we want to live.

Grow Your Network
Both networks are important. Cultivating friendships and acquaintances at work, in class, and in your life will always enrich you. Making a deliberate effort to follow interests and meet people you might not normally meet will also give you valuable insight and important connections to other people. All of this networking, both purposeful and natural, is part of the large system of working people who are all involved in a normal give and take of time, talent, and resources.

As a young professional you are asking for help and making connections, but in a short time, you will be in a position to be offering help.  Throughout your career, you will always be both asking for help and offering help.  In this series on networking, we will explore all those networks and circles and how they can help us and how we in turn help others.  Networking is a large part of a great fabric of professionalism and community of which you will always be a part.   

LinkedIn Challenge

If you haven’t already, start a LinkedIn profile with help from these resources.

First, connect with all of the people you know from home: friends, their parents, your parent’s friends, past teachers and coaches, and anyone else you can think of. They are all part of your network now. Then connect with people you know from college: friends, classmates, and past instructors.  At the end of the semester, add your instructors and classmates from all those group projects you worked on. Instructors will appreciate the connection and your peers will be looking to grow their networks, too!

By Amy Cornell
Amy Cornell Senior Associate Director, Alumni Engagement Amy Cornell