Why You Should Build Your Professional Network Before Grad
You can’t wait for the day you finally finish school and can start searching for your first job in your chosen field. But you also feel anxiety when you realize how many other new grads you’ll be competing against for a finite number of openings.
Your job-market opponents will have similar educational credentials. They will have also worked hard to perfect their resumes and interviewing skills. So how do you get an edge over your competition? One of the best ways is by starting to build your professional network as soon as possible.
Professional networking might seem like something that’s only for people who are well into their careers. In fact, as a student, you are in an excellent position to begin this work now. Here’s a look at what networking is, how it can benefit your career, and how to get started.
What is Networking?
Networking might seem like a mysterious activity involving secret handshakes or backroom deals, but it’s straightforward. According to the website Resumecoach.com, “Professional networking simply means building professional relationships. It is about meeting and establishing mutually-beneficial connections with people in your profession or industry.”
The key phrase there is “mutually-beneficial.” That means, done properly, networking is as much about helping others as it is about getting ahead yourself.
How can you help others? You might provide references, referrals, or advice. There are lots of ways to do it. Yes, networking is about advancing your career with the help of others, but it’s also about giving back.
Many experts agree that building a strong professional network isn’t just a handy career tool; it’s essential to the success of modern professionals.
According to a Harvard Business Review article:
“A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.”
Need further proof that building your professional networking will pay off? A recent survey of over 15,000 LinkedIn members found the following:
- 79% believe networking plays a role in career success
- 70% had an existing professional connection at an organization where they got hired
As a student, there are three main groups you’ll have the opportunity to network with:
- Fellow students: Once you become working professionals, you can help each other find jobs right after grad or even years down the road as you advance in your field.
- Instructors: CDI College instructors have years of experience in their chosen fields. They can share insight into how the industry works locally and who might be hiring.
- Industry professionals: You’ll likely have opportunities to meet people already working in the industry through practicum placements, guest speaker visits, and field trips.
Many people get nervous when they think about networking, and that’s okay. It can be intimidating to get started. Just remind yourself that it’s simply about meeting people and making connections. Be professional and polite, but don’t worry about being too serious.
In fact, with many of the people you’ll network with, you know you’re both interested in the same career path. That means you already have a lot in common, which can help break the ice.
Here are a few specific steps you can take to get started with networking:
- Connect with people on LinkedIn or other relevant social media platforms
- Get involved with a professional organization related to your field
- Invite people to chat one-on-one over coffee (These days, that’s usually over video chat)
Now's the Time
Gaining new skills and earning a college credential are important ways to advance your career. However, as a student, you are also in an excellent position to create bright future through professional networking.
Experts agree it gets results, there are many ways to do it, and there are lots of people to do it with. In between assignments and tests, spend some time building your professional network. It can be well worth it.
What steps are you taking to build your professional network? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.