Networking is about making connections with others, letting them know about your talents, your value, and your availability. More often than not, networking is not meant to yield immediate results. Rather, it is meant to increase your opportunities down the line.
You need all the help you can get new graduate or first time job seeker. And networking, besides opening up more opportunities in the long run, can also help you get your foot in the door. While there are specifics to networking that are based on region, context, specific goals, and the different sectors of activity, there are 3 pillars to networking that you can start to build immediately – even if you haven’t graduated yet.
Pillar #1 – Be Helpful to Your Peers
Your peers – those who have more or less the same age as you or who are involved in the same kind of professional activity – are the ones who are or will be in a position to help you out professionally. And, they are far more likely to be willing to help you out. They may even to go out of their way to do so, if you have earned the reputation of being someone who helps out others.
Though you may feel that you lack the experience or the professional connections to be of any real help to anyone at this point in your career, helping out your peers can involve seemingly small things that can be very big to others.
- Introduce people, help others create connections
- Pass along the knowledge you’ve acquired or the anecdotal experience you’ve gained (sharing how you stumbled during a job interview for example, so the next person doesn’t make the same mistake)
- Help promote projects and events put on by members of your circle.
The more helpful you are to others, the more you’re seen as a resource, as a valuable connection. Developing a reputation as being someone of value is key to unlocking opportunities for yourself in the future.
Pillar #2 – Be Visible
There’s truth to the old adage: out of sight, out of mind. And when it comes to career opportunities, the last thing you want is to be out of people’s minds. Being visible means having a substantial online presence, especially on sites and forums related to your sector of activity. It also means interacting with content creators active in your field.
You should attend conferences and meet-ups related to your sector of activity. You should have such an active presence in these events that the organizers and participants almost expect you to be there. If you achieve this level of visibility, your name will be synonymous with the goals and values associated with your chosen sector of activity. And when opportunities in this field arise, you’ll naturally be the first name on many people’s minds. How to kick start your career
Pillar #3 – Contribute to Group Projects
A great way to not only make connections but to ensure that those connections are strong and long-lasting is to tie those connections to a completed project. If we take an example something as simple as a local volunteering drive, when you participate in such a project, you will be working alongside people – peers as well as people more established in your line of work – all in an effort to meet specified goals.
You will meet many like-minded people during the experience of a group project. You will form bonds that are strengthened by the fact of having achieved stated objectives together. And you will be seen (which is already great) as someone who takes initiative, who works well with others, and who can make – and has made – a positive contribution.
Your university, local community, and online community should present you with many opportunities to get involved in group projects. Choose to be as active as your schedule allows; be careful not to spread yourself too thin. And choose projects that you are likely to be passionate about and those that have stated objectives you feel have a high likelihood of being met.
The Bottom Line
Networking is a critical component of opening up opportunities for you, regardless of what your chosen sector of activity is. And while there are certainly useful tips and tricks on how to network successfully, they all boil down to 3 key pillars – help others, be visible, and make a positive contribution.
The sooner you start developing good networking habits, the sooner you will become quite good at it and the sooner you can start reaping the rewards.