Nick: How to build a network and improve your career prospects
Nick is a dreadlocked Bob Marley enthusiast, who is also interested in Liverpool Football Club, long walks on the beach and having a few drinks with friends. Nick completed the Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) degree in 2015.
Anybody else looking forward to this moment?
I know I certainly was. But as students we don’t only want the piece of paper once we finish our degrees, do we? We actually want to get a job at the end of the day! One of the most important factors of that job hunt is often the networks we’ve built during our time at uni.
I know, I know. Networking. But if you’re picturing awkward cocktail parties or diving for the canapes to save yourself from another minute of forced friendliness, fear not. There’s actually a number of ways to build your networks while at uni that don’t involve canapes of any kind (unless that’s your thing of course). As a proud USQ graduate and now full-time member of the ‘real world’, I can personally attest to the importance of growing you networks while at uni, which is why I’m here to share my advice on how you can do just that.
Your peers are the best place to start
Making contacts and growing those relationships during your time at uni is super important, but this doesn’t only apply to your university lecturers. While your lecturers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in your industry of interest, it’s your university peers that you’re very likely to bump into out there in the ‘real world’. Having a friendly relationship with your peers can be beneficial if they find a job in the same organisation or field you are trying to break into. A good word from someone already on the inside can be the foot in the door you need, and we’ve all heard the expression, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone you meet, but making yourself known to those around you at uni is a great foundation for your professional network.
Work experience is a networker’s dream
If you’re lucky enough to secure a part-time job or work experience role in your dream field or a related industry, make the most of this opportunity to add a new branch to your network. This is a great chance to meet like-minded people who might even be current students just like you. For myself, working at an Outside School Care as an Educator was a great chance to meet others who had knowledge and experience that I could learn from. Between this role and the work I’d done with Lifeline, I soon had a growing professional network that aligned well with my goal to work at Kids Helpline in the future. You just never know how connected your colleagues are or what knowledge they might be able to share.
Volunteering is invaluable
If you’re unable to gain a paid job in a related field to the degree you’re studying, volunteering is the next best thing and a golden networking opportunity. From my experience volunteering attracts a really diverse range of people so you just never know who you’ll meet or what they’ll be able to share with you. Even if the people you meet haven’t worked in your desired industry, anyone who’s had a job will be able to teach you something about the world of work.
Technology ties it all together
As your network grows and people head off in their own career directions, you’ll need to work that little bit harder to keep your network healthy. Technology is your friend when it comes to staying in touch with professional contacts and peers, so if you’re not already on LinkedIn it’s time to bite the bullet! Think of it as your online resume and a professional version of Facebook all wrapped into one. You can keep tabs on those in your network and see where their career is taking them and they can do the same, giving you both the opportunity to support each other here and there if you can.
While the iconic cap toss is at the top of most graduate to-do lists, it’s safe to say that getting a job after graduation is a very close second! By taking the time to connect with your peers, colleagues and members of the community and strengthening your network with the benefits of technology, you’ll be taking big strides down the path to full-time work. I know networking has certainly helped me in my career already!
Once you’ve built a strong network don’t forget to go the extra mile and keep in touch with your connections. Use these 3 easy tips to refresh your network and keep it growing.