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Networking Authentically

January 22, 2021

Part 2 of our Career Motivation series with Joy Lin ’09

Love it or hate it, networking plays a huge role in job searching. According to CNBC, 80% of jobs are now filled through personal or professional connections and as many as 70% of jobs are not listed on public job boards. No matter how many networking events you have attended, networking can often feel cold and contrived leaving you wondering how to connect more authentically—that’s where career coach Joy Lin ’09 can help.

Dispel the myth of the opportunist

As a career coach, Lin helps people design holistic career paths in alignment with their individual strengths and purposes. She stresses the significance of authenticity: being your true self on your career journey and making meaningful connections when networking.

I think the goal of networking is to leverage your unique interpersonal style to get to know people, their passions, their problems, and their quirks.

“First, I think it’s important to dispel some myths about networking. Networking is often misunderstood as making opportunistic relationships. Because of this, so many people I work with are turned off to the idea because it sounds sleazy and conflicts with the way they want to relate to people. Instead, I think the goal of networking is to leverage your unique interpersonal style to get to know people, their passions, their problems, and their quirks. It’s about figuring out how you can make people feel heard, seen, appreciated, and respected.”

How can you master making authentic connections during networking events when conversations might feel forced or unnatural? Hone in on your unique interpersonal strengths and be genuinely interested in the answers of the questions you ask.

“Some people love using humor to make people feel comfortable. Others get a thrill from bringing people together and facilitating introductions. Some use their strengths to remember little details and send thoughtful messages. Personally, I love asking questions and showing sincere interest in each person’s story. By finding your relational sweet spot, you also learn things about yourself, gain new perspectives, and make new connections. Thus, expanding your network is a secondary byproduct of this process.”

5 tips to network authentically

  1. Find someone who does it well to emulate.
    “This could be a mentor, friend, or even a speaker on TV (yes, even Ted Talks and scripted television can give you ideas on how to talk to people!). True story: When I was in college, I was SO awkward, but I had an extroverted friend who was amazing at relating with people. I would emulate her at events when I first started, which helped me break the ice. As I got more comfortable through practice, I developed my own style of relationship-building and the confidence to try things out.”
  2. Choose a few go-to questions that you can use in any situation.
    “For me, it’s ‘What brings you to this event?’, ‘What shows have you been into lately on Netflix?’, and ‘What are you most excited to be working on currently and what kind of resources would be most helpful to you right now?’”
  3. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond to your outreach email.
    “Check to see if your messaging can be improved and follow up again after 1–2 weeks. If they still don’t respond, brush it off, give people some grace, and keep moving!”
  4. Reflect on the people you really enjoy talking to and learning from.
    “If you’re aware of the qualities you admire most, you can actively seek out individuals with those qualities.”
  5. Do it A LOT!
    “I joined a business fraternity where we would have entire evenings of networking, which allowed me to practice initiating conversations, asking questions, closing conversations, and being present with people. This is, by far, the most invaluable skill I learned through my business fraternity. You can practice by attending job fairs, low-key events, or using apps like, where you get matched with new, smart connections every week.”
Joy Lin (far left) and members of the BAP business fraternity | Image courtesy of Joy Lin

Whether you’re a networking novice or a veteran, remember the value of authenticity when connecting with potential contacts. To learn more about Joy, read about her journey from Cal to career. You can also visit Joy’s Instagram to connect with her.

If you’re interested in networking with other UC Berkeley alumni, consider joining the Berkeley Career Network, a local or cultural Alumni Chapter, the Cal alumni LinkedIn group, or subscribing to our career update emails.