Networking is defined as the “cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Sounds pretty crucial to career success, right? Unfortunately, your professors may or may not have exposed you to the idea of networking to build potential work relationships or how to go about it.
When is it too early to begin cultivating work relationships? Never! The earlier you can begin building connections, the easier it is to get a jump on post-grad opportunities.
How to Get Started
1. Get outside your comfort zone
The first step to networking is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Going to an event by yourself may sound intimidating but luck is only created by hard work and taking a risk.
2. Make the first move
Confidence is key. If you don’t have it, some argue you should fake it until you make it. Waiting for people to start a conversation or show up at your door won’t get you very far. Bite the bullet and introduce yourself.
Make sure each introduction is genuine. Only connect with those that really interest you. Passing out your business card or CV to everyone in the room will yield in a low ROI.
3. Follow up and keep in touch
Networking only works if you keep the conversation going. If you get their information or business card, jot down some important information about them or your conversation. That way when you follow up, you can really personalize your follow up. If you discussed having coffee, schedule a time to meet right away before their schedules fill up.
For example, “Thanks for your time yesterday and connecting on LinkedIn. I really enjoyed learning about your success with Amazon. Would you want to meet up for coffee to continue the conversation? I’d love to hear more.”
Manage potential work relationships by connecting on social media and touching base every so often.
4. Always be prepared
When actively networking, anything can happen at any time. Be prepared with a business card or resume on hand at all times. Always maintain a professional appearance, even for spontaneous meetups.
Where to Network
1. Engage with your professors and classmates
Start by embedding networking in your daily routine. Get to know your professors or even professors that aren’t yours. Their knowledge and insights are not their only valuable asset. So are their connections. Your professor has the ability to connect you with other individuals that can be crucial to your career’s success, whether it be an industry leader or a former student.
Similarly, get to know your classmates. Especially if you are pursuing similar fields. Move seats every now and then to get to know new neighbours in your class.
2. Join campus clubs
Sign up for a select few clubs on campus. Clubs open up opportunities for you to meet other classmates and allow you to connect with outside organizations and speakers. Attend as many events as your schedule allows.
As you find yourself getting involved with more activities, meeting new people to build work relationships will become second nature.
3. Visit the career office
There are many free resources at your fingertips, you just need to find them! Pay your college career office a visit. Here you can find internships, receive feedback on your CV, perform a mock job interview, and much more. Be open about your goals so that way they can keep their eyes and ears open for you.
4. Use an internship to your advantage
Internships only yield what you make of them. Go the extra mile to get to know staff and management. Introduce yourself to other departments. Show up early and get involved. When you finish, connect with colleagues on social media. Make a point to keep in touch to maintain work relationships.
5. Learn to market yourself
If you’re yet to pick up on it, social media is important! Create a LinkedIn account and learn how to properly market yourself behind a screen. If you don’t have the opportunity to connect with someone in person, social media is an excellent way to shoot your shot from a distance. Make sure each of your channels tells the same story.
Thanks for this post go to our friend, Haley Kieser, a freelance writer who covers topics on career, business, and finance for many notable brands.