You have probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, and yet just the thought of networking with industry professionals makes you feel awkward. A targeted resume can do great things for you, but applicants can get even further when they already know people within a company, because people often hire people they know. And how do you get to be known by the right people? You network!
To network, we suggest taking every opportunity to get to know people. Let them know who you are, what you can do, and what type of work you’re interested in. Remember, networking isn’t about finding a job. It’s about building connections that can lead to a job – now or years in the future. It’s also about meeting people in the field and can be a great learning opportunity to discover what’s current in your industry.
Here are some tips that will help you feel confident while networking:
- Prepare – Practice what you would like to say about yourself. Know what your strengths are and try to make it into a 30-second ‘pitch’. If you’re going to an where you can network, it’s even better if you know some things about the people (and their organizations) that you will be talking to, so it’s important to do your homework beforehand.
- Develop your online presence – Ideally, you want to build your online presence prior to networking, so that your contacts will have something professional to see about you, rather than them finding your personal social media accounts or nothing at all.
You can start by making a LinkedIn Using LinkedIn to connect with alumni and people you meet networking is a great way to build your network, stay in touch, and let them learn more about you on a professional level. You can also use LinkedIn to connect with people in your field of interest, see their career path, and understand what skills are valuable in their line of work.
Depending on your field, you can also create a website or an online portfolio to show off some of your work. About.Me, Bulb, Wix, and WordPress are great free options to get started.
- Leverage your social media – If you do want your professional connections to find you on social media, make sure that your personal social media accounts are work-appropriate and/or locked to only allow your select viewers access. There may be Facebook groups or people on Twitter that you’ll want to connect with. Don’t be shy about starting a professional conversation where you can ask thoughtful questions about their company or line of work. You never know what can come from it.
- Get up, dress up, and show up – You might feel reluctant to start networking, but you’ve got to push past this feeling to get yourself out there. Remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere! Try thinking about networking as links to potential jobs, and a way to learn about what’s trending in your field.
Present your best self by showing up in a timely manner and looking professional, whether in-person or for a virtual event. Don’t be late or show up at the end of an event when your potential connections are worn out and getting ready to leave. Wear a nametag, have a firm handshake, and make eye-contact. Making a good first impression can have a lasting impact, long after the networking is over.
- Listen and ask questions – When networking in-person or online, be sure to show genuine interest in the person you’re speaking with. If you feel awkward starting conversations, try to ask open-ended questions that you can build on with follow-up questions and dialogue. Keep in mind that networking is not only about gaining connections, but also about building relationships and getting to know the person. You can ask questions about:
- Their work environment
- Can you tell me about the corporate culture?
- What are the hours of work?
- Is there a lot of teamwork or is most of the work done independently?
- The company they work at
- What do you like most about your company?
- How does your company differ from competitors?
- What are typical entry-level jobs at your organization?
- Their career
- What do you find the most challenging in your role?
- What do you enjoy the most?
- How can I prepare myself for entering this field?
- Them as a person
- How did you get started in this field?
- What does your career path look like that brought you to this profession?
- What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?
- Follow-up – After meeting someone at a networking event or elsewhere, don’t wait too long to follow-up with them and include a piece of your conversation to help them recall who you are and the chat you shared. If you’re connecting with them on LinkedIn, personalize the message you send with your invite to remind the person of where you met.
- Maintain your networks – Lastly, your network should always be evolving so it’s important to maintain the connections you’ve made and keep in touch with people over time. Staying in touch with classmates and reaching out to your instructors after you graduate might help land your next job; you never know where your classmates might end up or the connections your instructor has. You put in the effort to network with others and you want the people you met to remember you long-term because they just might be the perfect link to your next job.
As always, if you need assistance an advisor from Student Employment Services is happy to help. Book an appointment via CareerCentral: www.nic.bc.ca/careercentral.