You’re aware of the importance of networking for career purposes, right? At AUM, we certainly are! And it’s not just us. Indeed, many universities have begun to give this facet of the business world its due, encouraging students to engage with professionals and forge manifold links with them. Such connections can eventually translate into solid and lucrative jobs. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways to go about networking, as well as its benefits.
It’s always a good idea to think beyond the limits of your field, even when advancing your career is what’s on your mind. People making strides in arenas or industries unrelated to yours might still have a lot to offer you. If they’re smart and/or influential, and also open to putting in the time and effort to connect with you, it’s probably worth it to pursue a relationship with them. Not only can individuals far removed from your immediate circle dispense useful advice or serve as effective links to people you’d like to get acquainted with, but they may even turn to you in the future to fill a vacant position in their own company.
As a college student, think of it this way: You’re bound to find people out there who – despite your differences in interests, knowledge, and experience – are either already established at legitimate companies or looking to set up their own. Mingle with them, and you might well learn of firms you didn’t know about, or gather information unavailable through public channels. Show such people that you have the skills, intellect, and trustworthiness they seek when vetting job candidates, and you burnish your image, perhaps ultimately landing a job with or through them.
Should you prefer a more formal way to go about all this schmoozing and connecting, consider professional networking events. These tend to feature seminars, workshops, and meetings from which you’re likely to emerge that much more “in the loop.” The fascinating thing about making it a habit to attend such events is that you end up learning how to recognize people with useful knowledge and experience almost as soon as you encounter them – provided, of course, that you maintain a discerning approach throughout.
Admittedly, whether the setting is formal or informal, it may take some initiative on your part to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. But it’s like physical training; the more you do it, the more your muscles adapt. You’ll just have to flex that social muscle and learn to adapt to different milieus. Before you know it, this will begin to prove less intimidating, and you’ll have attained a degree of comfort with the task. And the more comfortable you are in such situations, the more you’ll exude confidence and approachability. This might well open up an entirely new world, enabling you to derive pleasure from the simple activity of seeking out new opportunities for networking.
That’s why it’s always important to aim high. Attempting to establish a connection with someone your senior in age, more accomplished than you professionally, or of a higher social status might come across as daunting, especially to those of us who are reserved by nature. If that’s the case with you, just start small; muster up the courage to approach someone you’ve got your eye on, say “hi,” and try to initiate a very basic conversation.
Once that conversation has begun, one way to ease any lingering sense of awkwardness on your part is through discussion of a topic that interests both you and your interlocutor. While you may be worlds apart in terms of background or career, commonalities of any kind could serve as grounds for you to connect. So ask a little about that person and find out what their interests or hobbies are. If it turns out that you have one such interest or hobby in common, try to take things a step further.
Let’s say, for instance, that you discover that both of you are into tennis or swimming. By arranging a friendly match or a few laps at a pool, it will become a lot easier to forge a friendship-of-sorts. And such a development will in turn facilitate further interaction.
At this point, a caveat is in order. While you may wish to pull a job out of networking the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, it’s important not to look at the matter this way. Better to commit to potentially fruitful relationships for the long haul and simply hope for the best. What’s more, should you provide the odd small favor to people and indicate that you don’t expect anything in return, they are more likely to value your friendship and even reward you of their own accord at a later date.
So what’s the upshot of all this? Well, keep in mind that a college career at AUM is not just about acquitting yourself admirably in the classroom. It’s something that, theoretically, you can parlay into myriad opportunities. Just be sure to start networking sooner rather than later! Who knows? Maybe a few years following graduation, having cultivated friendships with all kinds of people showing promise, you’ll find yourself connected to the movers and shakers in your field and beyond. If that happens, things are likely to get pretty exciting – and pretty fast!