As a new graduate, who is entering the workforce (sometimes for the first time), you are excited about the world of opportunity ahead and are looking to put your best foot forward to land a job in your field. You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s who you know, not what you know” and with limited experience (and connections) you may find yourself wondering how do I get connected within my industry?
Professional networking can be one of the most powerful resources that you have at your fingertips. With an array of unseen prospects, it has the ability to set you apart from the status quo and above the competition, not to mention access to potential employers, internal/hidden job postings, and possible job referrals.
Don’t wait until you graduate to start networking. It’s essential to start networking as soon as you’ve found a field of interest.
Best Practices as a student include:
· Connecting with professors, faculty members and peers
Often times, your professors and faculty members are industry professionals with years of experiences and knowledge; they can provide a gateway to the industry, sound advice about the field, and potential referrals. Furthermore, your colleagues and peers can help to acquire trade information and act as sources of shared data. So next time you get to class early and your professor is there, go up and speak to them.
· Join professional groups and career networking events at school – actively participate and share ideas
Clubs and groups can provide you the opportunity to socialize, manage contacts, and build professional relationships. Being part of group settings can teach you key leadership and communication skills, and depicts you as a key team player.
· At networking events, scope out the attendees and research the organizations that are going to be present
Research some of the professionals attending the event. It’ll be easier to break the ice and you’ll have material to talk about and find shared interests. For example, If RBC’s VP of Marketing is on the list of attendees at your school’s job fair, you may want to gather some information; especially if marketing is your major and RBC is a company of interest. Google the name, scan for any interesting information, look over their LinkedIn profile. Where did they go to school? What organizations have they previously worked for? Are they part of any associations or clubs? What are their hobbies?
· Network with field professionals at those events
Take this opportunity to introduce yourself, listen, share ideas, and build meaningful relationship. Remember networking can only take place through mutual support, you shouldn’t be holding the weight of the entire conversation. If they don’t seem interested, don’t take it personally. Move on to the next person.
· You’re building a relationship. Be creative, memorable, and authentic
And like any other relationship it should be based upon trust, respect, and open communication. It takes shared effort and time. Leave a good impression and initiate follow-up (don’t forget to ask them their preferred method of communication).
· Stay in touch: Add the new contact to your LinkedIn
Connect with your new friend on LinkedIn. Ensure you attach a small note, mentioning your conversation and how great it was to meet them.
· Get involved in your community and volunteer your time
Volunteering within the community gives you the chance to socialize and build relationships with individuals coming from all walks of life. You never know who you may come across.
· Don’t forget your personal network: family, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances
Often times, when we think professional networking, we forget about all the wonderful people in our lives that would be more than happy to help us. Connect with them, let them know about your prospective career goals, ask for professional advice, and add them to your LinkedIn.
How do you navigate your network once you have graduated?
1. Create Networking Goals! This will provide you with a sense of direction with your employment strategy. Who do you want to connect with and why? Focusing on the field of interest, concentrating your research on key organizations and people.
2. Perfect your LinkedIn (and any other forms of social media, make it job ready): Let your personality shine through, add your personal blog posts relevant to your prospective field and previous work experience, join online forums, professional clubs and associations, and organizations that you are interested in. Ask your current network to write you recommendations and refer you to their networks on LinkedIn.
3. Connect and enlist the help of your existing network: This is the time to gather your network and acquire their help in the job search process. Let them know of your employment goals and what you’re looking to do. Ask them to keep an eye out for any employment opportunities as well as any suggestions on how to connect with the employers or professionals from the field.
4. Join professional networks and associations relevant to your field
Your field more than likely has clubs and association you can get involved in. In addition to licensing entities and other regulatory bodies, you can apply to be a part of. These organizations tend to have specific affiliations with companies and, as a member, you would also have special access to their network. Furthermore, it gives you an opportunity to easily connect with other industry professionals and a higher probability of getting noticed.
5. Attend conferences, networking and industry events, recruitment fairs
Ultimately the best place to market yourself! Put yourself out there, volunteer to be a key speaker, help organize the event – it becomes easier to network with people if they already know who you are.
6. Find yourself a mentor Enlist the help of someone in your network that you have a strong relationship with, essentially acquiring their expertise on how to enter the field, the right organizations, and people to connect with. (Be mindful that this is relationship made up of mutual support)
7. Internship is a great way to get your foot in the door
Internships allow you to progress from temporary employment to potential permanent positions. It gives employers the ability to envision and experience you as part of their team. With added benefits such as networking, learning new skill sets and organizational procedures, which can be added to your employment experience. And remember, if there is no position open in your department, there may be another department that you could be referred to.