There’s no doubt that professional connections can help you find a job in Australia. For some people, these connections are made early on in life with help from parents, friends and teachers. However, as an international student, it’s likely that you’ve left your existing network back in your home country and you may have to start from scratch here in Australia.
If this feels familiar, there’s no need to stress. Wondering how to network? With some help from the Student Learning and Welfare Manager at Sydney Institute of Business and Technology, Pru Wirth, we’ve put together some networking tips for international students looking to build a professional network in Australia.
Starting without a network is tough
It can be really difficult to see your local friends find jobs and connections so easily, but remember there are lots of students in the exact same position as you. Whether they’re also international students or simply don’t have an existing professional network, you’re not alone.
Despite this, you shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of networking for your future career. As Pru explains, a professional network can lead you to all kinds of opportunities and give you a headstart on your career once you graduate.
“Developing a strong professional network can have a positive impact on your career success,” Pru says, “You can share the latest information about your industry, learn where current opportunities and growth are happening, and even brainstorm ideas for your own business or creative initiatives.
“And, reaching out to those in your network for mentoring or advice can help you improve and further develop your existing skills.”
You need to get yourself out there
Many people put off networking because it feels uncomfortable. Making connections involves putting yourself out there, speaking to new people and even attending events alone, and if these things don’t come naturally to you, then it can be really hard to get started. But, it’s important that you don’t let your nerves hold you back. It’s normal to feel a little awkward at first, but it won’t always feel like that.
Start by changing your mindset. If you’re heading to a networking event, challenge yourself by chatting to one or two people at the event. If you have a friend who’s particularly well-connected in your field, you might ask them to pass on your email address to a couple of their contacts. Start slow and you’ll be a networking pro in no time at all.
Start with an international student network
If you’re an international student, you already have a network of people around you who could become important professional contacts in the future. Pru reminds students that building an international student network can be as easy as starting a conversation with other international students.
“You’ll be studying with students from all around the world,” she says. “Start by connecting with them – it’s an instant global network! Get to know your classmates and join in any extra-curricular activities. The people you meet while studying will be part of your future professional network!”
Turn to your teachers
Your teachers and professors have been involved in your field for a very long time, and may have some inside knowledge about your future industry and the people to contact.
“Your teachers and academics are also a great starting point,” says Pru. “They have industry knowledge and lots of experience. They are specialists in their field, can discuss the industry contacts they have with you, and provide guidance on building your own network in your particular industry.”
Look into the career services provided by your educational institution
Many students look outside of their educational institution for career development and opportunities. But lots of education providers actually offer career development, skills workshops and networking assistance.
“These services can help you to define your career goals, put together a resume, write job applications, prepare for interviews and find work experience,” says Pru. “In general, they help prepare you for employment, and connect you with job and internship opportunities.”
It’s important to be open to the opportunities that are presented to you, as they can be an important building block for beginning your future career.
Attend as many networking events as you can
Throughout your studies, it’s likely that your education provider will host networking events for students to make connections with people already working in their future industries. You can also look outside of your education provider for networking events that are happening in your local community.
It’s important to understand your behaviour expectations at these events. Pru explains that while networking events are a great way to demonstrate your social skills to employers, students should remember that these events are held in a professional context.
“Avoid topics of conversation that might get a bit heated or are of a personal nature, don’t use these as an opportunity to party hard, and put your best foot forward,” she says. “You never know who is in the room at a networking event, that you might be sitting across the table from in a job interview one day!”
Get some work experience
Work experience can be extremely helpful in building connections, but your experience doesn’t have to be in your future industry. Whether it’s a part-time job at a local cafe or a volunteer role with a charity, work experience will give you the opportunity to develop skills, learn about Australian workplace culture, and even gain referees for future job applications.
Pru suggests looking into any internship and work experience placements that might fit into your course.
“Be sure to ask student support or academic staff about these opportunities. Placements give you a very specific and valuable learning experience in your chosen field that you can later include in your resume.”
Get involved in campus life
Clubs, societies and student leadership opportunities can provide invaluable connections and experience. Pru encourages you to get involved with these opportunities as much as you can.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay connected to staff and to other students, and to get involved in campus life,” she says. “Student leadership opportunities broaden your circle beyond the classroom and give you the opportunity to learn important skills like time management, running events, understanding meeting procedures and public speaking, and give you something that you can add to your resume!”
Never stop networking
Networking isn’t something that you ever really stop doing. It’s important to be open to making new connections throughout your working life. Pru’s networking advice can be applied at any stage of your career.
Keeping it simple, she says, “Maybe you already know someone working in the field you want to go into. When the time comes to look for work, reach out to those people and let them know you are looking, and ask them to let you know about any opportunities.”
SIBT is more than just an education institution. We offer a personalised academic environment and a range of support services designed to help students prepare for success. Once you graduate with a diploma, you can select from a variety of university options to further your studies, including guaranteed entry in Western Sydney University, Sydney City Campus.
SIBT has achieved over 90% satisfaction rating for student support. Prepare for success with a customised learning approach, extra tuition classes, a dedicated mentor, direct lecturer access and integrated English language support.