How Teens Can Build Networking Skills (And Why They Should!)

One key to achieving any professional goal is learning how to network. 

In this Q & A, Allison Gilbert, Senior Writer for the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, has a far-reaching interview with J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In A Hyper-Connected World. Hoey shares her networking expertise with leading organizations such as Google and Capital One. She also speaks across the country at colleges and universities. Read on to learn more about why networking is important for young people, and what you can do to help build networking skills. 

J. Kelly Hoey courtesy
of Lisa Tanner Photography

Allison Gilbert: First, how do you define networking?

J. Kelly Hoey: Networking is human interaction. It’s often just a routine activity (opening a door for a friend or teacher, talking with a classmate, responding to a question with an Emoji) because even the smallest interaction is a chance to connect with someone else, reveal our character, and build our reputation. By thinking of networking as an everyday occurrence, such as volunteering, we can lower the pressure and turn it into an activity we do naturally.

AG: Why is networking important, even for teens and young adults?

JKH: Individuals in our networks may see greater potential for our talents than we do. They can also offer support when times are tough or cheer us on when times are great. But networks are also an opportunity to be of service to others. It is important to remember that to get where we want to go we also have the chance to help friends achieve their dreams. 

Networks can be created in digital spaces.

AG: You say that old networking skills still apply in our hyperconnected world. What do you mean?

JKH: Networking principles remain the same, even though the “how” of developing connections has changed dramatically. Networks can be created in digital spaces but it’s important to keep certain old-school practices in mind: 

  • Send the kinds of emails you’d like to receive,
  • Talk with others the way you’d like to be spoken to, 
  • Spend time building trust with a new “friend” before making a big ask. 

AG: You’ve created a Networking Action Plan. What is it, and how does it work?

JKH: I built a 30-day networking action plan for new graduates. It’s designed to guide them through the process of networking and into their first post-college job. [Get Hoey’s free 30-Day Networking Planner here.]

AG: Tell us about the importance of setting goals.

JKH: Understanding your goals will direct you to make better networking choices. Say, for example, you’re weighing your career options, and don’t know whether you want to be a teacher or a lawyer. Your networking goal might be speaking to people in these two different fields. Having a clear idea of what you’re interested in learning increases the likelihood of getting the insight you’re seeking. 

AG: We talk a lot here at the CPTC about the importance of mentors. Why are mentors important when it comes to networking?

JKH: Mentors can be translators of unwritten rules, allowing even the youngest workers to understand unobvious social rules and hidden expectations. Whether navigating networks at school or in the workplace, the ability to lean on the wisdom of mentors is critical. It might even help students avoid mistakes.

AG: You emphasize the importance of building relationships for internship and work success. Is doing so similar to navigating relationships in high school or college?

JKH: In school hallways, you learn how to navigate a variety of cliques, groups, and personalities. No different than what happens in an office! So yes, all the socializing and interacting you do as a student develops those all-important networking muscles.

AG: Can you describe the power of positive adult relationships in the lives of youth? Are these types of bonds central to building effective mentorships?

JKH: Yes, these relationships are important, but that doesn’t mean students should focus all their attention on one or two connections. It is unrealistic to assume that one person can fulfill all our mentoring needs. It’s often more helpful to seek mentorship from a variety of sources. In this regard, don’t forget that mentors aren’t just adults. Your peers hold a lot of wisdom. Look to them for guidance, too.  

AG: Are there any free resources that would be helpful for teens to know about when it comes to looking for jobs and internships?

JKH: There sure are! 

  1. Build Your Dream Network Book Bonus (70 pages of new content to inspire your network building)
  2. UK-based Bright Network has free e-learning platform (Courses such as “Acing an interview” and “Thinking about diversity and your career”) 
  3. And on the Build Your Dream blog:
    1. How To Network Without Being Annoying?
    2. A Resume? Yes, You Still Need One (So Craft It Right!)
    3. One Last Thing In The Build Your Dream Network College Content Series: Follow-Up! 

Parents, don’t keep this information to yourself. Share this piece with your teen so they can get out and build their dream network.

About Allison Gilbert

Allison Gilbert is Senior Writer for the CPTC. Her pieces cover an array of topics including self-care, bullying, grief, and resilience. Allison is author of numerous books and speaks across the country to corporations, non-profits, and community groups. You can learn more by visiting

Read more articles by this author

Get our weekly newsletter for practical tips to strengthen family connections.