It’s never too early to begin growing a valuable professional network, your time at your institution provides an excellent opportunity to start practising networking skills. The network that you begin building during these years can prove to be valuable in the future by providing leads on everything from jobs to housing.
Mingle with Alumni
One place to start is with the Alumni from your institution; you can often meet them by attending networking events on your campus. Graduates are more likely to want to help you while you are still a student, and many institutions provide opportunities for students to mingle with alums in informal settings. When you do have a “one on one” opportunity, make sure that you are prepared and have an “elevator pitch”, in other words tell them who you are and what you want from them in 30 seconds, keep it brief and to the point.
Another excellent resource is your institution’s online alumni directory. Take some time and focus on finding the people who have a career track that is of interest to you. Once you find someone you would like to connect with, search out their email address in the directory and prepare a well-written and brief email introducing yourself and asking them to provide insight and guidance, and always make sure to keep it professional and polite.
Align with your interests
Join groups on campus and elsewhere that are aligned with your interests, network amongst members of your group. People who have similar interests tend to be more open to helping one another.
Friends and family
Your parents and your friends’ parents could provide excellent connections too. Again, know exactly what you want, an internship, an informational interview or insight into a company? Make sure to communicate your expectations clearly.
Use Social Media strategically, LinkedIn is a must, but your “party” pictures and funny commentary on Facebook should be kept private and for your friends only. LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world, and it is free, start by building your immediate network through your contacts and LinkedIn groups.
To learn how to use LinkedIn effectively, read our guide.
Get to work!
Get an internship in a business that you are considering as a profession. Internships are invaluable because of the real life experience and skills that you gain, but also the contacts that you make, and internships often lead to full-time jobs.
And when you meet people who are open to networking with you, always ask if they have connections that you can network with.
Don’t forget to be grateful, send thank you emails to anyone who assists you and always proactively offer your help – you never know when you might be in a position to return the favour.