When it comes to career advancement, who you know is important. Many jobs are never listed before the right candidate is found, interviewed, and hired. So how do you meet the right people who can help you get in the right place at the right time to grow your career? The answer is by continually meeting new people and building your network.
Networking could be the key to landing you the interview at the company you’ve been trying to get into for years, or give you a chance to secure a job that few other people know exists. Networking can also help you connect with a mentor or a like-minded colleague who can offer an understanding ear, helpful resources, and even valuable advice as you navigate the day-to-day challenges and stresses of the professional environment.
If you’re new to networking, here are six tips to get you started.
1. Get to know your classmates and colleagues
Start talking with more people in your South University classes. If they’re in your program, they’ll share some of your interests, and you can start by asking about their career aspirations and past professional experiences. For now, you might wind up with a study buddy. In the future, this new connection could prove helpful for one or both of your careers.
Outside of school, find ways to connect with your current colleagues. Are their people you pass every day in the hall or say hello to, but who you don't know well? Ask them for coffee and a chat, or join them for lunch whenever you get a chance.
2. Think outside the workplace
Find new connections close to home by getting to know your neighbors. Drop by with a simple gift and introduce yourself, or invite them to your place the next time you see them outside. While your instinct might be to grow your network by connecting only with people in your field, it’s impossible to predict which connection could lead to your next career move. Plus, it’s nice to know your neighbors!
Similarly, let your friends and family know what you’re studying in school and your desired career path. When the people around you know about your goals, they’re better able to introduce you to people who might be able to help.
3. Refine your LinkedIn profile
A current and complete LinkedIn profile is essential for people finding you online and helping new connections understand who you are. For a profile photo, choose a simple headshot of you alone in front of a plain background. Add a headline about what you do now and what you hope to do in the future. Then, use the summary section to share more about your professional strengths and goals. Fill in the Experience section (including accomplishments at each job), along Education, Volunteer Experience, Accomplishments, and Skills.
4. Be an active LinkedIn member
Once your profile is complete, connect with your instructors, classmates (new and old), work colleagues, family, and friends. Share professional articles you think might interest or benefit others, adding commentary on why you do or don’t like the article. Comment on other people’s posts where it makes sense. Join industry-specific groups to ask for advice and get to know others with similar interests. By taking these steps to stay active on LinkedIn, you can stay top-of-mind for your connections—and meet some new people along the way.
5. Volunteer in your community
Volunteering is a great way to give back and support your community. At the same time, volunteering can get to know other people in your area and maybe gain relevant industry or leadership experience. With a little searching, you might even find volunteer organizations related to your professional strengths or goals.
6. Join industry organizations and professional events
MeetUps, student groups, networking events, professional seminars and conferences—these are all great ways to build your network. When you attend, be confident in approaching and getting to know other people and be ready to summarize your goals, strengths, and interests in one to two minutes. (If needed, you can always practice this with classmates, friends, family, or even in front of the mirror.) Bring business cards to the event with your name, email, and phone number. These cards can either feature your job title or show that you’re a student (for example, Jane Doe, MBA Student).
After the event, connect on LinkedIn with anyone you met and send a note saying you enjoyed talking. Consider planning a future meeting for coffee to continue your discussions.
Want to know more about how South University can help you with preparing for your next career move?
Contact us to learn about how our degree programs are designed to help you go from classroom to career, and how our Career Services team and other dedicated staff can support you along the way.