Despite being a completely free service, a surprisingly high number of students fail to utilise their university’s career service.
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Searching for graduate jobs, and professional networking, go hand in hand.
As well as being a great way to build connections, gain references, develop your confidence and widen your skill set now, professional networking - both online and offline - can also set you up for success in your future career.
Effective networking consists of two parts; speaking to people you’ve interacted with before who will be able to recommend you to a potential employer, and connecting with individuals you don’t already know, who can offer you advice, guidance and insight into the graduate jobs market.
Even if you haven’t started actively applying for graduate jobs, building up your professional network now can better your professional reputation, and make you more employable, in the future. So whether you’re a student, a recent graduate, or you’ve been working for a while, here’s how to start professional networking for job search success.
Throughout your life, you’ll have interacted with thousands of people – and chances are that some of these will be able to help you on your job search. Friends, family, colleagues, teachers, and university professors are just some of the kinds of people in your immediate personal network who may be able to vouch for your past performance and recommend your skills to a potential employer.
Depending on how well you know the person, you might choose to connect with them by sending them an email or a LinkedIn request, by giving them a call, or even speaking to them face-to-face. If it’s a university professor or teacher, for example, why not swing by their office, set up a time to drop-in or arrange a meeting?
As well as being able to provide a reference, people in your personal network may also be able to offer you careers advice and insight into the industries they work in, as well as help you define your skill set and interests. Even better, they might be able to introduce you to people in their network who might be more useful to your job search, i.e. somebody who is working in a particular sector or role that you think you are interested in.
LinkedIn is the most powerful professional network, so if you’re not already using it, you’re missing a trick!
Once you’ve filled in your LinkedIn with all your basic information, and set your employment status to ‘job seeking’, the next step is to start growing your network. Unlike many other social media networks, it’s more acceptable on LinkedIn to add people you haven’t met in real life – so if you come across someone who is working in an industry you’re interested in, request to connect with them, especially if you have a number of mutual connections. When you send the request, make sure to include a personalised message that explains who you are and why you want to connect.
Growing your network on LinkedIn will not only show potential employers that you’re serious about your job search, but having a range of connections will give you insight into various different roles, industries and companies, through the pages that those people follow, and the content they post and share.
Once you’ve started to grow your LinkedIn connections, there’s a number of other useful ways to use the platform to network.
Simply having 300 new connections won’t be effective in helping you find a job - so if you’re serious about professional networking, it’s important to build relationships with your new contacts. Start engaging with other LinkedIn users by liking, commenting on and re-sharing their posts, especially if it’s content that interests you.
There’s also no harm in messaging your new LinkedIn connections, asking them for any sector-specific advice, discussing content they have posted, finding out about upcoming networking events, or if they can refer you to anyone else.
And finally, be active on the platform. Posting your own original content, or sharing posts that interest you, can help to spark a conversation with an existing connection – and who knows? They might be the key to helping you decide on, or even find, your ideal graduate job.
Once you’ve nailed professional networking online, you can start to boost your chances of employment face-to-face. Whether you’re a student or a graduate, there are a number of events you can attend to network with recruitment professionals, other students, societies, and employers.
Though it might seem scary, attending an event such as a careers fair, an employability workshop, or a professional conference will be incredibly valuable to helping you build up your network and grow your connections.
Before you attend the event, try to find a guest list, and do some research on the companies or individuals who will be attending. Once you’ve arrived, use the opportunity to its full advantage - introduce yourself, initiate conversations and find out as much information as you can from the people you speak to.
After the event is over, follow up with the people you have met via email or LinkedIn, to ensure that your new connections become long-term contacts.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to attend an event solo, remember that you’ll also be developing some great skills to boost your employability! Employers across the board value communication and networking skills very highly – so rest assured that even attending these events will also be building up your skill set.
Once you’ve built a network, don’t lose it – remember to stay in touch with people you’ve connected with online and in person.
Right now, the people in your network may be able to help you on your job search, by providing references, referrals and careers advice. In the future, the relationships you build may be mutually beneficial, when one of you is looking for a career change, to hire, or to work together. For this reason, it’s important to stay active on LinkedIn, continue growing your online and offline network, and develop your networking skills throughout your graduate job search - once you have landed a job, and throughout your career.
Professional networking is an ongoing process that can offer huge benefits for job searching now, and in the future. With the potential for 30,000 connections on LinkedIn alone, networking is a tried and tested way to search for graduate jobs, develop your skills and propel your career development.
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