Building a network of professionals can help you reach your career goals
First published in jobpostings magazine
careers. education. ideas. all of it.
Network, network, network. It’s one of the most important skills you can develop throughout your career. Building relationships and making connections will help you learn more about the field you’ve chosen to work in, provide great sources of guidance and mentorship, and uncover job opportunities that aren’t officially posted. All of these perks multiply when you network with professionals who have grayer hair and longer job titles (especially ones with acronyms).
But great things don’t come easy: networking can be especially hard to do when you’re just starting your career. Read on for tips on how to start building your high level network.
Build your network
When you’re starting a career, you may think that you don’t have a network, but you do. Friends, family, friends of family, family of friends, and friends of friends are just some examples of whom you can include in your network. You already know these people either directly or indirectly, so start reaching out and build connections. That said, you also need to include experienced people in your network and a great way to do that is to get involved in industry associations or groups. Go to meetings, seminars, and networking events and use these opportunities to broaden your network.
So when the opportunity arises, introduce yourself to someone new. Sit with someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation. Don’t use these events as social time with your friends.
You can step up your participation in these associations by volunteering on organizing committees, which will help you meet more people and increase your profile in the group.
You may also consider building yourself a network of mentors from a variety of backgrounds throughout your career. Early on, it’s good to have a mentor who is in the same profession. They can answer your questions about the field, provide you with guidance, and introduce you to others in the industry. Some professional associations have formal mentoring programs, so if you have an opportunity to join one of these programs, do it!
The tricky part is finding a mentor on your own. Draw from the network you’re building. Many people are happy to share their knowledge and experience if you just ask them. If someone is not able to commit to being your mentor at that time, don’t get discouraged. Be persistent and ask someone else.
Make an impact
When you go to a networking event and have to talk with strangers, it is hard to know what to say. The best way to calm your nerves is to be prepared. A great way to prepare is to have a brief self-summary ready. You may have only a short time to talk, so your self-summary needs to be concise and impactful (your elevator pitch). You should include the program you’re taking in school, relevant experience that you’ve had (co-op, volunteer, summer work), the type of opportunity you’re looking for, and when you’ll be graduating. Practice, practice, practice! You should be able to say it with ease and confidence in about thirty seconds.
Take advantage of any opportunity you have to network. The more events you attend, the better your networking skills will become. Remember to make an impact on the people that you meet. Networking provides invaluable benefits to the growth of your career, so don’t underestimate its importance. Good luck!
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