Whether you're a soon-to-be graduate or you’re still midway through your studies, it’s important to make use of your network as most of your future opportunities are likely to come through people you already know.
Network is just a fancy term for people you know - this could be friends, friends of friends, a friend's parent, uni lecturers, guest speakers, the list goes on and on.
And your network is probably a lot bigger than you think it is, and often when we start the process of looking for a graduate job or work experience, we over complicate the process and forget to look right in front of us.
Here’s how to use your network to your advantage:
- Talk to people you know
The chances are you probably know someone (or know of someone) who works in the field you want to go into. This doesn’t have to be someone you know particularly well, it could be a secondary contact - a friend of a friend, or a friend's parent.
People are usually willing to help students and graduates get their foot in the door so It’s always worth asking if you can drop them a message or have a chat with them. You never know what it could lead to, they may tell you about a vacancy at their place of work, or offer you a few weeks of work experience.
- Use Linkedin
Linkedin is a great way to connect with people who you otherwise wouldn’t be able to contact. A great tip is to reach out to people who actually work in your dream role at your dream companies. Drop them a message and ask to pick their brain on what they do and advice for getting into the field and even see if they have some work experience opportunities. You’ll be surprised at how many people may get back to you and you’ve instantly made a connection in the industry.
- Don’t forget about other forms of social media
It’s a good idea to have a separate Twitter account where you actively are involved in your desired field. This is just another great way to connect with people in the industry and build up connections that you can eventually reach out to. This will also show that you are actively trying to build up your professional profile.
- Make use of uni lecturers
You may be underestimating just how much your lecturers could help you. More often than not, lecturers have interesting backgrounds and have come from other places of work and have their own connections. It’s worth chatting to your lecturer and seeing if they can recommend great places for graduates. They might give you a name of a company or better yet, give you the name of a specific individual to email. This will already show the employer how keen you are to kick start your future.
- Approach guest speakers
See what’s coming up on your uni timetable and make an effort to attend sessions with guest speakers. They’re there to help and are always more than happy to be approached after the session for advice or queries about jobs and work experience. You’d be surprised at how many students don’t approach guest speakers, so if you make sure you are one of the few that do, a great opportunity could come from it.
Remember not to be nervous - guest speakers come to universities to help students and they’re expecting to be approached. You’re not troubling them.
- Be mindful of your approach
People are willing to help students but be polite and try to avoid coming off as cheeky. The best thing you can do is ask for advice to show that you are interested in the field. Then depending on how your conversation goes, ask politely on the best ways to get some experience or if their company offers this.
- Get creative
Depending on the role you’re applying for, don’t be afraid to get your CV out there in a creative way. For example, creating something like an ‘about me’ website page that links to your CV could be sent round to your contacts? You never know who might be impressed with it and who it might get passed around to.