Networking Tips for Students
I’ve been having a really fun time this summer teaching Project Management at Algonquin College. I’m working with a really great bunch of students who are going to be the next wave of digital mavens, helping people just like you get ahead in this crazy online world.
One of the questions I’m asked the most as a teacher is, “How can I find meaningful work after I graduate?”. It’s an important question, in an age where emailing your resume to companies just doesn’t cut it anymore as a way to get your foot in the door.
What does it take to truly get on the inside track to finding work in this industry? One word.
Ah yes, networking…that task we love to hate. It’s a rare person that I find who feels great about entering a room full of strangers with the sole purpose of introducing yourself and getting to know people. In fact, the very thought of networking strikes fear into even the most confident people. Add on top of that being a new grad, and it’s enough to send students running for the exit.
So how do you get out there and get networking as a student or new grad? Here’s what I know.
The first thing you’ll want to do is find events in your city or town that you might be interested in attending. How do you do this? Head to your friend Google. Do a search for “networking events in [your town]”, and see what comes up. Also search for “professional associations in [your town], and check out their web sites for upcoming events. Make target list and plan to get to a couple of events a month if you can. It’s the single most effective way to meet people and build connections.
Go for coffee. Lots of coffee.
After you graduate, make sure you don’t lose touch with the people you were connected to while at school. Start a private Facebook group for alumni and work at maintaining connections with your classmates. Stay in touch with your profs, too. Invite them for a coffee every now and again, and catch up. My first job out of multimedia school was with one of my prof’s companies, why? Because I stayed in touch with her. And to this day, some 17 years later, she’s still sending work my way! Also keep in touch with clients you worked with during your program. Again, dropping them an email once in a while to let them know what you’re up to, or inviting them for a coffee is a great way to keep the lines of communication open.
Put yourself out there.
Once you get to those networking events, don’t forget to get in there and introduce yourself. Spend more time asking about other people than talking about yourself. Bring business cards but only give them out after you’ve had a good conversation with someone, or if they offer you their card first. Make sure that the info on your card is up to date and accurate, and make sure that you have a portfolio or resume somewhere online that people can view. I hear so often from students that don’t event have a description of their work online (think LinkedIn profile). As a prospective employer, I want to know what work you’ve done, what you’ve learned while in school and how you’ve applied it. If I can’t find you online, I will soon forget about you.
Finally, don’t forget to keep track of the people you’ve met. You don’t have to get all fancy with a database…just keeping a list of who you connected with and where they are from in a simple spreadsheet or Word doc is great. Refer to your list often, and follow up with people.
Finding a job these days is 99.9% WHO you know. So get out there, and get to know people!
Do you have networking tips to share? Drop them in the comments!