Creating your own Social Network
As a wise tutor once told me, “you can’t legally own people, but they are an excellent asset.”
Now, he said this in regards to labour, but knowing people is an asset in itself, and one you’ll need when you finish uni and start looking for work. Networking is surprisingly easy, though admittedly a little daunting. It has only two steps: meeting people, and maintaining connections. Seems easy enough, right?
Let’s for a moment go back to the first year of uni. If you are a first year, just think about where you’re at now. You were starting your studies, deciding on a major, and getting used to uni life. You probably weren’t thinking about making connections in your field just yet. Now skip ahead a couple of years to your final year. Suddenly, you’re graduating and looking for a job. This is where knowing people matters. So how do you network and what can it do for you?
First, you need to meet people. I know I sound like a dating coach right now, but that’s kind of what you’re doing. You want to meet as many (relevant) people as possible, and present to them your absolute best self. Why? Because later on, these are the people you’re going to call for references, letters of recommendation, and about internships and job opportunities. So in short, you want them to think you’re the most amazing person on the planet.
So, where can you meet these key influencers? Well, chances are you’ve already met a few! Lecturers and tutors make great academic references, and to get on their good side, make sure that a.) they know your name (and you know theirs), and b.) you participate a lot in class, so later on they can say ‘yep, (insert name) is amazing, you should definitely hire them/let them go on exchange/do honours’.
Need specific locations? Try careers fairs, seminars and talks by guest speakers, workshops, and your workplace. Networking can be strategic, but you don’t want to come across as using people, or being conceited. Just be your amazing self and you’ll be fine.
Secondly, you need to maintain these relationships. You’ve met some very important people by attending careers fairs and company seminars, but now what? Get their emails, phone numbers, whatever you can, and stay in contact. Now, I’m not saying stalk the person (definitely DON’T do that), but drop them the occasional email, and then later on when a position opens up, they might just think of you.