Building networks between yourself and professionals is becoming increasingly important to getting a job. Accumulating professional contacts will be very helpful to you when you are trying to get work experience and advice. Networking can also help you to decide what particular career you feel will suit you and many jobs are now advertised through networks. Here are some tips on how to get started.
How and where to make contacts
You can begin to build your network straight away. Think of all the people that you know – this is your personal network. Some of these people may have careers that you think you would find interesting, so why not ask them about these? Showing an interest may be the first step towards securing some work experience! Equally, members of your personal network may have their own contacts who may be of interest to you. So make sure that you mention to as many people as possible what you are interested in studying at university or doing as a career. With these contacts you can begin to build up a bigger network through LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). Here, you can create a profile through which to promote yourself.As for your professional network, you can begin by keeping up to date with businesses and organisations that catch your eye. Follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook, for instance. Many job opportunities and graduate schemes are now promoted through social media, as are university scholarship and bursary opportunities – so staying in the loop is very important! Careers advisors at your school or university can also point you in the right direction. There will be a long list of people who previously attended your school or university and some careers services often pair students up with ex-students.
At careers events, make sure that you note down the contact details of various speakers. Do the same at special university lectures or events and try to introduce yourself to the speakers – they will be able to give you advice and answer your questions. Similarly, if you organise any events at your school or university then make sure that you make yourself known to staff and outside visitors who come to the event. You could even create a business card to help promote yourself or give visitors your full name and mention that you can be found on LinkedIn.
How to keep your contacts
The hardest part of networking is keeping the contacts that you accumulate. The first thing to do is to ensure that you follow up any physical introduction you have had with a thank you email. This will show that you genuinely appreciated meeting the professional and look forward to corresponding with them in the future; keep them up to date with any significant news too, such as your graduation. Likewise, keep in touch with your school teachers, university lecturers, and previous work colleagues… you never know what opportunities they may become aware of at a later date!