For students and recent graduates networking is a must.
Yes, it will open doors and yes, it might just open the door to that perfect opportunity as most jobs form part of the Hidden Job Market. However, it is much more than this. Networking is a skill. Being an active networker as a student is also an important way to practice this skill and improve your confidence and your communication and even your presentation skills.
How to get started with networking…
A lot of students avoid networking events because they feel awkward or out-of-place. For most students the best strategy is to get stuck in and attend as many events as possible.
You might question what type of events are suitable for students? Particularly if you have no idea what you want to be when you graduate.
- Start by networking with your peers to build your confidence. Relationships built with fellow students can be invaluable – your fellow students may be a future client, a future customer or a future co-worker or even a future employer depending on where your paths lead you.
- Volunteering, joining student societies and attending university talks are good ways to network with your peers providing you with the opportunity to meet with a lot of like-minded people open to forging connections and building relationships based on common interests.
How to find suitable networking events…
Start with “internal networking”. As mentioned above, network with your peers and attend university events. You can find out more about these opportunities to attend these events by getting involved with your department and university community.
If you know (or even simply just have an idea) of your chosen Career Path you might wish to start looking for and attending local networking events in the industry or sector you want to work in after university. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Eventbrite is a good source for finding out more about local networking events.
- Industry or sector associations are also a good source of networking events and many professional associations or bodies offer free (or discounted) membership for students. Find your Professional Association.
- Future potential employers – many large employers host events such as career fairs and/or talks at your university – so be sure to check out your own faculty and university Careers Service websites to see what is on (e.g. University of York Events Programme) and if you have an interest in a particular employer – check their website too – e.g. JP Morgan Careers Events are an example of employer that provides skill based networking opportunities for students).
- If you know what job you want on graduation sign up for websites/blogs relating to your career choice for more opportunities – for example if you want to be a lawyer you might choose to sign up with Aspiring Solicitors and LawCareers.net. Again, these advertise opportunities that students can get involved in.
Don’t be afraid of joining a professional network as a student. Talking to people doing the job you want to be doing can prove invaluable. You should use the opportunity to learn whether the job is right for you, learn more about potential employers you didn’t know existed, gain an edge for interviews by learning about companies and developments in your industry and even (if you are lucky) get a job.
Networking is long term – your professional network is your future network – so why not get a head start.