The word “networking” might bring to mind an image of clean-cut adults at fancy conferences and serious business meetings. But you might wonder, “What exactly is networking and why should I care?”
Networking can loosely be defined as meeting and exchanging information with different people to develop professional and social contacts. When it comes to job hunting, at times, it boils down to who you know, not what you know.
And that’s where networking comes in.
If you feel lost, intimidated or don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Here are 6 suggestions on how you can start networking while you’re still in university!
#1. Send out cold emails
Banish the mindset that networking is a tiring and worthless task that you can put off until after completing university.
Networking does not only involve face-to-face meetings — you can also send out cold emails to the people you look up to if you’re nervous about meeting them in the flesh. You may not always get a response, but it can be an effective way of building business opportunities if done correctly.
Take 7-year-old Chloe Bridgewater, for example. Her love for robots and computers inspired her to write a letter to Google to ask for a job. The best part? Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai responded to her snail mail with some words of encouragement, and added that he would look forward to receiving her job application in the future once she has completed her studies!
#2. Tap into social media
If emails aren’t your thing, why not use social media to connect with business professionals?
Twitter is one of the fastest ways for you to directly reach out to your idols (feel free to slide into their DMs or @ them), while LinkedIn “connects” you with people across different industries on a more professional scale. It helps if you’re active on at least one of these channels and interact with others regularly, in addition to sharing your own content too.
While reaching out to them doesn’t guarantee a response, chances are, these professionals are sharing their thoughts, insights and latest industry news that you may find relevant to your interests.
#3. Reach out to your lecturers
Apart from getting in touch with working professionals in the field, your lecturers also have a wealth of knowledge that you can tap into, so why not take advantage of that by asking them about their area of interests or specialisations?
You can also be curious and engaging by asking them questions about your lessons in class, even if it’s not relevant to your career.
Additionally, developing a good rapport with your lecturer makes them more likely to provide a professional reference for you in the future, as opposed to a student they have barely spoken to. They’ll also be in a better position to provide relevant details for your application.
#4. Talk to your parents and your friends’ parents
Your parents, older relatives and even your friends’ parents are not always the boring dinosaurs you think they are, even if they find it “hard” to navigate Facebook.
They can be one of the most useful resources for you to connect with working professionals as they already have years of working experience under their belts. They’re also more likely to share their experiences with you, as opposed to a stranger.
Additionally, reaching out to people you know is less awkward because of your mutual connections.
So don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with them and let them know about your career interests. Who knows, their connections may come in handy in the future.
#5. Get active at social and networking events
We’re not implying that you have to attend stuffy business meetings in order to network, but it’s worth considering attending both social and networking events, including conventions, forums or even workshops to build connections with like-minded people.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, why not participate in a talk about environmental conservation where you can meet those who are already in the field or discuss topics with fellow environmentalists and nature lovers?
You’ll not only expand your horizons by meeting new people, but also gain a world of knowledge from experts in the field. On top of that, meeting new people can help you develop or improve your soft skills, such as communication, presentation and interpersonal skills, which will be useful once you start working.
#6. Keep the momentum going
Once you’ve got the ball rolling, don’t stop! Keep the momentum going and continue to meet new people and build your connections as you transition from university to the workforce.
However, don’t forget to keep in touch with old connections and friends. Just because you’ve acquired a person’s name card doesn’t give you the right to call them up for a favour on a rainy day. Follow through on your promises of “I’ll drop you an email” and “I’ll be sure to call you if I have more questions” as it can help solidify your relationship.
You can also keep in touch with acquaintances online by reacting to their social media updates and commenting on their posts, or simply by catching up over coffee.
Networking and building new professional relationships doesn’t have to be complicated, as long as you remember your purpose and goal. It’s worth remembering that networking isn’t a one-way street — it’s not merely about what others can do for you, but how you can help your new acquaintance too.
So don’t hesitate to speak to family and friends, or be too quick to say “no” to outings that come your way — you’ll never know where or through whom you might meet a potential employer, friend or colleague one day!