Skip to content
Progressive Pipeline Fellowship Guide
Share
Explore
The Job Hunt

Networking

Why Network?
The good news and the bad news is that, strangely enough, politics is a really small world. Everyone knows everyone. That means that, with a little bit of effort, you can usually network your way into any job you really want if you put some time into it. It also means that you really don’t want to burn any bridges. Word will get around and it will come back to bite you.
An old saying says that people who ask for money get advice, while people who ask for advice get money. That may or may not be true, but the underlying point is both valid and critical: asking people for advice, rather than a more demanding request like a job referral or introduction to someone important, can take you a long way, for a few reasons: first of all, people often have good advice. If you’ve spent 20 hours researching a new field (which is a lot!), think about the fact that someone working in that field has spent twice as much time in the field as you did, every week, for hundreds if not thousands of weeks. Don’t underestimate how much useful knowledge they might have to share!
But there are other reasons to ask someone for an rather than directly going for something more aggressive. Reaching out to someone you don’t know and immediately asking for a job can seem pushy. It might also seem arrogant. But if you ask for 30 minutes of their time and have a good conversation, the person might say “hey, if you’re interested, I could pass along your name to the folks hiring for this job,” or “hey, do you know XYZ? If not, I’d be happy to make an introduction.” They could easily say that for the job/organization/person you had in mind, plus five more that might even be better fits for what you’re looking for but that you didn’t know about, either because you didn’t find them in your research or because (in the case of a job) they were never posted online at all.
An important note is that you shouldn’t be deceptive about what you’re asking for. Don’t set a time for a conversation about advice, then make the hard ask for a job or connection when you get there. Not only is that dishonest, the bait-and-switch will probably turn off the person you’re talking to, making them unlikely to help and leaving them with a poor impression of you. A better strategy is to reach out to a (thoughtfully-selected) group of people, without the expectation that any one person will give you exactly what you’re looking for, but rather that the group of people as a whole will provide you with a mix of advice, connections, and opportunities that together help you accomplish whatever you are trying to do.
The most important thing for you to know is that the best networking strategy is to do good work. In the small world of politics, word about your good work will get around. Word about bad work will, too. Most of these networking strategies are about getting in the door: pushing for opportunities to get on the radar of folks who might be able to hire you. None of that matters if you aren’t doing great work. If you are--and you do it consistently, treat your coworkers with courtesy and respect, and work as hard as you possibly can--it will get recognized.
Building a List
Start by figuring out who you might want to talk to––this can be more challenging that you might think! There’s no right path here, but the best way to set yourself up for success is to start from a place of openness and curiosity:
Are there particular fields within politics (e.g. digital, comms, organizing, data, etc.) that seem especially exciting to you? Types of organizations that you’d want to work at? Roles that you might one day want to have?
What questions do you have about your next career steps? Which ones feel the most important or exciting?
Hypothetically, who might you want to shadow for a day? Is there someone at a certain organization or holding a certain role who you’d have lots of questions for?
Are there particular jobs that you just want to know more about?
From there, you’ll want to build a list of folks to reach out to. Not everyone needs to be super senior, but I usually recommend chatting with folks who are at least a few years into their career. I’d try to prioritize people who:
Are connected and networked: It seems like they have solid roots in progressive politics, probably know a lot of people, and really get the landscape. (This is both helpful in enabling them to make connections for you down the road, and in making sure that they can offer advice about career paths that go beyond their particular role at their particular organization.
Seem to be doing cool stuff: Make sure that you’re connecting with folks whose jobs seem at least potentially interesting and impactful. You don’t need to be an expert on their story before you reach out, but you should know enough that you’d be prepared to ask thoughtful, informed questions.
Make you curious: When you look at their bio or LinkedIn profile, do you want to know more? Do you have at least a few questions that you’d want to ask them? If the meeting led no where (they totally ghosted you afterwards, didn’t help you get a job at their org, and didn’t make any introductions for you), do you think it’s possible that you’d have learned enough in 30 mins that it’d still have been worth your time?
From there, there are a few sets of people you could think about connecting with:
Core relationships. These are folks who already know you and want you to succeed. That could include your current boss, someone at Progressive Pipeline, or others in your network who could offer valuable advice. We often underestimate how useful these folks can be, and tend not to engage them enough. Consider reaching out for an informal catch-up, ideally grounded in a core question you’re trying to answer (often “what do I do after college?”)
Extended network. You've met once or twice, or know lots of folks in common, but they aren't quite in your corner yet. Maybe you were in a group meeting once, or they reviewed a project you worked on. You can use broadly similar tactics to the ones in the Cold Outreach section, but with a more personal touch––they’ll be much more likely to respond than total strangers. A note that says something like this can go a long way: “We met during that meeting with Sarah and Paula a few weeks ago, and I saw that you’d managed a bunch of House campaigns. I’m trying to think about my next careers steps, and whether I might want to go work on a campaign––would you be open to finding 20 mins to hop on a call and walk me through the landscape?”
Shared interests. You have something in common (maybe a school, or workplace, or identity), but you don't them yet. Your approach can be very similar to completely cold outreach, but a warm note that mentions the connection can add a lot.
Everyone else. This is a little more intimidating, but it has a surprisingly high success rate. If you write a thoughtful, personalized, curious email (see below), people will often be flattered and respond. If you’re looking to build a list of folks to reach out to, I’d recommend either doing some LinkedIn searching, or just making a list of organizations that you think are cool, and then going to their “Our Team” pages and reaching out to 1-2 people at each orgs who seem to be doing meaningful work that’s related to your areas of interest. This often works!
Cold Outreach
How to find any email address
The first step in reaching out to someone is finding their email address. It is shockingly easy to find the email address of pretty much anyone who works in politics. Try these methods (in the following order) until one sticks:
Google them! You will often find a link to a bio page on their organization’s website with a public email address.
If that doesn’t work, try creating a free account with . They’ve figured out that pretty much every organization has the same email format for all their employees: for instance, if my email is , Sagal’s email is probably going to be sagal@progressive-pipeline.org. Pop the website of their employer into the Hunter.io search bar, and it’ll spit back a pattern.
If you don’t have any luck with hunter.io (or if the person you’re trying to reach is currently between jobs or doesn’t have an organizational email), try rocketreach.co. Also free, but you’re limited to 5 lookups per month, so use them carefully! Just pop in their name (or, better, a link to their LinkedIn profile) and it’ll usually spit an email address out.
In case that doesn’t work, I’ve found that people are a lot more willing to put their emails on PDFs than they are on websites. Occasionally, googling someone’s full name in quotation marks plus “filetype:pdf” will spit something out!
Anatomy of a cold email
Right now, you have a huge networking advantage that won’t last forever: old people really want to help young people! If you send a thoughtful email to someone who you don’t know, but who’s doing interesting work, and ask if they’d like to connect, your chances of success are really high.
Writing a good cold email is a skill that you’ll use forever, but it’s especially important at the start of your career, when you most need to build your network.
Here’s the rundown:
Subject Line
Keep it short, professional, and not too formal. Give them a sense of who you are and what you’re asking for.
Bad
- help? (or anything all lowercase)
- I am looking for a job in progressive politics and would love your advice (much too long!)
- MEETING REQUEST (weird!)
- (No Subject) (you need one!!)
Good:
- Coffee next week?
- Advice for a student?
- Anything else that’s crisp, clear, and professional
Salutation
I generally think “Dear” is better than “Hi” for folks you haven’t met before, especially if they’re older. Never start an email with “Hey” unless you know them well. Spell their name right!
Opening
It never hurts to start with something nice. “I hope this finds you well!” or “I hope you’re staying safe and healthy!” can help set the tone of the email as two real human beings connecting with each other, not just job-seeking robots.
Then cut to the chase: tell them who you are, how you know about them, and why you want to talk to them. Do this immediately, and don’t beat around the bush.
Bad:
I’m a global citizen and someone, at least in my opinion, who is deeply engaged in the world and progressive politics; I’m both an organizer and an activist at heart. I came to this work when my grandmother told me about the time she met Eugene Debs and -- damn! -- I was hooked. It’s my passion and my calling, and I’d love to speak with you about it because I want to work in politics one day. Can we chat next week?
Yikes! Both TMI and really no information. They don’t need your life story, they just need a little bit of context. And you could have sent this email to anyone. Why do you want to talk to them in particular?
Good:
My name is Valerie, and I’m a junior at the University of North Carolina. I saw that you’re leading analytics at the SEIU, which I’ve admired ever since you all organized my mom’s workplace a decade ago! I’m interested in working in labor, and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about how you got started.
Ask
The most important thing is to make an ask! Be clear and concise. The person should understand exactly what you are asking of them. Being vague about what you want doesn’t somehow make it more polite; it only confuses them. Be direct and polite in asking for what you want; it’s doing the other side a favor. If you’re asking for a time to meet or talk, it’s always polite to offer a few time windows that work for you to minimize the back-and-forth in case they are busy and don’t have much availability to meet. Make sure to specify the timezone you’re talking about, especially during COVID times when many people aren’t where they normally would be.
Bad:
It would be such a joy and an honor to learn from you and hear your story. I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom to share, and I can’t wait to engage with you and blossom what I imagine will be a deep and fulfilling relationship.
You didn’t make an ask! They’re left guessing as to what you actually want. Be warm and polite, but also treat them like a normal human being.
Good:
Would you have a few minutes to connect next week? I’m free Monday 3-6pm EST, Tuesday 10am - 2pm EST, or Friday 9am - 12pm EST.
Closing
End with something like thanks, warmly, or best and your first name. Keep your email signature short and professional. It doesn’t need to be your whole story.
Pulling it together
That’s it! All together:
Subject: Connecting next week?
Dear Joanna,
Hoping this finds you well!
My name is Valerie, and I’m a junior at the University of North Carolina. I saw that you’re leading analytics at the SEIU, which I’ve admired ever since you all organized my mom’s workplace a decade ago! I’m interested in working in labor, and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about how you got started.
Would you have a few minutes to connect next week? I’m free Monday 3-6pm EST, Tuesday 10am - 2pm EST, or Friday 9am - 12pm EST.
Thanks,
Michael
There’s no need to copy my template exactly, but this broad framework should get you pretty far.
Once You Reach Out
If they don’t respond, it’s probably not because you offended them or did anything wrong. People SUCK at email, especially not super urgent ones. It’s okay to send a polite follow up (e.g. “Hi Jim -- just wanted to make sure this didn’t get lost in your inbox! Would you have a few minutes to connect in the coming weeks?”) but wait at least a week to do so (probably two), and don’t send more than one.
If they say they don’t have time to connect, you should still respond warmly, and thank them for taking the time to write you back. Again, politics is a small world. If you meet them (or one of their friends) in a year or two, you want them to remember you as someone who responded graciously even when you got turned down.
If they want to connect, that is awesome news! You did it. Respond ASAP to coordinate a time (try to be as prompt and communicative as possible). Unless they are working with an admin assistant to schedule the meeting, you should send over a calendar invite with a Zoom link. If they don’t specify a length of time for the meeting, I’d do 30 minutes.
Your First Conversation
You’ve found their email, you’ve reached out, they’ve responded, and you’ve scheduled a time. What do you now?
Networking meetings (or “informational interviews”) can be incredible tools for your growth and development, or they can be terrible, cold, inhuman, and ineffective ways of slithering up to people who are more powerful than you. You can make this choice!
The first thing to remember is to treat these meetings as normal human interactions with normal human people. It’s okay to be funny and warm! You should be professional and polite, but you can also bring your full self to these conversations.
You essentially have two goals for these meetings: you want to expand your network (in a way that will hopefully lead to a job) and get a clearer sense of the field you’re thinking of working in. My view is that if you come into the meeting prioritizing getting advice over seeming impressive, you will do much better on both fronts.
This isn’t super complicated: imagine, in a few years, two students reach out to you to ask for advice on the job hunt:
One spends half an hour telling you how cool they are: they talk through their whole CV, learn about their whole life story, and hear about all their skills and accomplishments.
The other spends the meeting asking you a series of thoughtful questions about your job and what a career in politics can look like. You leave the meeting with a sense of who the second student is and what matters to them, but you don’t know about every single award they’ve won or job they’ve held.
The first student left the coffee meeting with next to no new information, and the meeting was basically a waste of time. They already knew their own life story! The second student, on the other hand, left with a few nuggets of wisdom that they can take with them on the job hunt.
Now, imagine that, in a week or two, a colleague mentions that they’re hiring for an entry-level position and looking for awesome candidates. Who would you introduce them to?
Probably the second student! Likeability matters a lot more than credentials, and people love giving advice. No one wants to sit through a 30 minute sales pitch. Instead, they want to feel useful and share what they’ve learned. Don’t downplay your accomplishments, but, instead of trying to wow someone by talking through every item on your CV, impress them with smart, thoughtful, and genuine questions. What are you actually curious about? Imagine you’d never see this person again -- what do you want to know?
As a general rule, you should do ~30% of the talking in these meetings, and you should mostly be asking questions. This ends up being a win-win: you come across as a lot more likable and you end up learning a lot!
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about yourself at all. It’s helpful to give the person you’re connecting with some context. Who are you? Why are you here? Why do you care? In 2-3 minutes, tell them your story of self! You should have a brief “elevator pitch” about yourself prepared, since you’ll need it a lot. The idea is that if you get in an elevator with someone, you should be able to finish the entire story by the time they get off the elevator a minute or two later. Try practicing this with a timer; you’ll be surprised at how short you need to make it. is a great start if this seems scary.
The best preparation for these meetings is to think about what you want to learn. What are you actually curious about? Do you want general advice on the job hunt? Are you interested in how a data analyst or political strategist spends their time?
Start by making a list of questions you want to ask. Don’t memorize this and don’t bring it into the meeting; just use it as a brainstorming tool. Do a little bit of research on the person and the organization they work for. Don’t ask any questions you could easily find answers to on Google.
Some examples of bad questions:
I saw that you’re working for the Center for American Progress. What do you do there? (you should know this already! If you don’t why did you reach out?)
What does Swing Left do? (Very easily Googleable)
How much do you make? (Too invasive for most people -- it’s okay to ask something like “Do you have a sense of how much entry-level staffers at labor unions generally make?”)
Can you find me a job? (They know you are looking for work. You don’t need to drill it in)
Some examples of good questions (not an exhaustive list):
How do you spend a typical workday?
What does success look like in your job?
How did you end up in your current position?
What do you like about your work? What do you find frustrating?
If you weren’t working at _________, where would you like to be?
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self? What should I be doing to get where you are?
At the end of the meeting, it’s totally okay to ask something along the lines of “Is there anyone else I should be talking to?” or “Do you know anyone else who could offer advice on XXX?” or “I’m really interested in working for a labor union. Do you know anyone in an analytics role at a union who I could talk to?” This is a great initial way of expanding your network.
Keep these meetings to 20-30 minutes. If they want to chat longer, that’s awesome, but you shouldn’t expect to take up more of their time.
Finally, and most importantly, be on time. This really, really matters. Whether it’s on Zoom or in person, people hate to be kept waiting. Almost everyone you’ll meet with is extraordinarily busy, and this is the most optional thing on their calendar. They are chatting with you purely because they want to help you. They probably have a million things on their to-do list and they almost certainly don’t see their families as much as they want to or sleep enough. So if you are late, they will take that to mean that you do not value their time -- or them. Don’t be. Have your headphones plugged in, your phone or laptop charged, and the Zoom link pulled up at least 5 minutes beforehand so all you have to do is press join.
Following Up and Activating Networks
Once you’ve had a great meeting with a new person, there are a few things you can do to keep them engaged and sustain the relationship.
After the meeting (wait a few hours, but no more than 24 hours), you need to send them a short thank you note. The most common way to do this is to just respond to the last email that was sent in setting up the meeting with a thank you. It can be brief and friendly, but it should be something. Make sure to specifically reference something you learned from the conversation: you don’t want it to feel like a form letter. I think the format / advice for a cold outreach email generally holds here.
Next, add them on LinkedIn. In the connection request, you can send them a nice note saying something like “Great meeting you today! Would love to stay in touch.”
If you’re applying to a job at their organization, send them a note to let them know! They’ll usually be flattered (it means that you were inspired enough by the convo that you want to work with them!) and they usually have some sway, even if the role you’re applying for isn’t on their team directly.
If you’re applying somewhere else, you could try a couple strategies:
You could reach back out to a few of the folks you had networking conversations with to share a short update on life and the job hunt, and say something like “I’ve applied to roles at BerlinRosen, SKDK, GSG, Rising Tide, and MissionWired. If you know anyone at any of those firms, I’d appreciate it if you could put a word in!”
You could take a more targeted approach by searching for the firms on Linkedin, seeing if you have any mutual connections with senior staffers there, and reaching out to the mutuals with a note.
Expert Mode: Long-Term Relationship Building and Updates
Once you’ve had an initial conversation, sent a thank you, and possibly gotten a little bit of help (either a connection or good word at a job that you’ve applied to), it can be hard to figure out how to sustain a relationship with the person you’ve just met. There’s not a single correct strategy here, but doing something to stay engaged can make a real difference, and can help turn somewhat superficial, short-term relationships into meaningful, lasting ones.
This is what I’d try if I were in your shoes: Once you start the networking process, create a Google Sheet with their names, email address, date of the conversation, a few notes/takeaways from the conversation, and the date you last were in touch over email. Every 3-5 months, I’d take a look through that sheet, and send everyone a short update.
It should probably include:
A quick update from you (it can just be a few sentences: I’ve worked on this project, wrapped up my internship, etc.)
A few words on how things are going career/job hunt wise (are about to graduate? starting to apply to roles? just starting a new job?). If you’re applying to roles, it can be useful to list what roles (or sorts of roles) you’re looking for.
Something you took away or remembered from the conversation that wasn’t in a thank you note (e.g. “I”m definitely heeding your advice to stay away from government affairs––it seems terrifying!” or “I’m still chewing on that question you asked me a few months ago about what I want to learn in my first job. Right now, I think I just want to have a great boss at an impact-driven organization, but I could also see how building my SQL skills would be really valuable”). This helps them to see that you’re not just sending a generic update, to jog their memory of the conversation, and to make it clear that you actually found the chat valuable!
Optionally, an ask. You don’t have to make an ask (it’s always refreshing to get an update email that’s just an update), but you certainly can. This could look like:
Another conversation. If you go this route, I think it’s a good idea to frame it around a specific question (e.g. “Our conversation a few months ago helped me decide that public affairs is definitely my path, and now I’m trying to figure out what kinds of firms and roles to look at. Would you be open to catching up and walking me through the landscape?”)
Introductions. You can try to ask to connect with a specific person, but this has a lower success rate. Instead, I think it’s often a good idea to pose a question that they don’t know the answer to, and ask if they know anyone who could help you think it through (e.g. if you’re talking to a digital person, asking them if they know anyone who’s worked in progressive data and could help talk you through first steps there)
Connections to organizations. Once you start applying to roles, you can include a line that says something like “I just applied to entry-level digital roles at Gambit Strategies, the Working Families Party, and MissionWired. If you happen to know anyone at any of those orgs, and would be open to putting a word in for me, I’d really appreciate it!” This is pretty easy for them to do, and politics is networky enough that it makes a big difference. I’d recommending listing 2-5 orgs that you’ve applied to recently to maximize your chances of successs.
The whole email should be pretty short and skimmable. This isn’t something you have to do, but it can help you to establish a regular cadence with these folks and build a more valuable and effective network.

Want to print your doc?
This is not the way.
Try clicking the ⋯ next to your doc name or using a keyboard shortcut (
CtrlP
) instead.