I think “graduate networking” is one of many terms grads come across at the start of their career , like “pitch,” “negotiation” and “soft skills”, that they don’t fully understand and subsequently get turned off. I think a lot of graduates look at those terms and think they’re a lot more sophisticated than they realise. Successful Graduate can help you break down terms in to their parts, by the way. Sign up!
I know I certainly was confused and a little intimidated at the start of my career. People started using terms like “call to action” which sounded something big and complicated (all you marketing grads who already know what it means, cut me some slack. I was a journalism grad). Then someone explained a call to action was just a direct request made to your audience. It didn’t have to be any more complicated than: Sign up!
Network is one of those words a lot of graduates misunderstand. They assume it refers to something complicated or weighty, like professional relationships with senior staff or something similar. What they don’t realise is “network” is referring to all connections you have with people. This includes your friends, known as your peer network, as well as teachers, family friends, relatives and current work colleagues.
So the not-so-big secret is: you already have networks.
What you might not realise, however, is people within one of your networks can also be in your other networks or move between one and another. Most commonly, some colleagues in your professional network may also be in your personal network, known as work friends. When one of you leaves that workplace, if you remain in contact, that person moves completely from your professional to your personal network.
What’s less commonly spoken about is your personal network helping with your professional network. It’s more common than you might realise. According to Graduate Careers, over a quarter of graduates found out about their employer through friends, family, university lecturers or their own work and personal networks.
The thing about networks is everyone within one of your networks has their own set of networks as well. That’s what it means when someone asks “do you know someone who…?”
Therefore, the connections you already have, through university or school, your friends, social groups, sports clubs, and so on, are potential places to start building your professional network. You also have a graduate network. Even your parents can help you, if they know or meet someone they think you should speak with.
This fits into what was discussed in Riding in Elevators with Employers and Riding in Elevators with Employers… again. Opportunities to do research on a potential new connection are not restricted to only online. If someone within your network knows someone who can be of help to you, it’s a good idea to ask the person within your network a little more about who they are directing you to.
With that in mind, however, you can use your online connections to start to explore new professional connections. LinkedIn is a particularly good way to do this, partly because it’s a professional networking website, but also because its search algorithms are based on the number of connections you have. We talk about this more in the LinkedIn Makeover special. It’s members only, but you can now buy a resources package to access all materials.
You’re also able to see who other people are connected with, so, if you have a colleague who is connected with another person who may present an opportunity to further develop your career, ask your colleague to introduce you, or just start researching their profile. That makeover special gives you tips on the best way of doing that, too, by the way. Sign up!
When considering how best to kick start your professional network, remember that you already have established networks which you can get to work for you. Think about who you know and think about whether they might know someone else who can help your career.
Next step is the coffee meeting and those initial conversations. Successful Graduate can help you improve your confidence and get you talking on point about your value proposition. Start learning today to improve the odds of your graduate employability prospects.
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