Networking might be key to unlocking amazing career opportunities, but how can you make professional contacts if you haven’t started working yet?
When you’re at university it can be hard to start building a professional network – especially while juggling the demands of study. However, your networks will be extremely valuable once you start job-hunting in today’s competitive and crowded market.
Here are some insights from the careers team at La Trobe about why networking is so important and how you can get started.
Accessing the hidden job market
Some sources claim that up to 70 per cent of jobs aren’t even advertised. This is known as the ‘hidden job market’, and in these cases, networking becomes very important.
The careers team noticed that around 8 out of ten students working in part-time jobs while they’re studying got the role through networking or directly approaching the business, rather than applying for advertised positions. This goes to show that opportunities come to those who seek interaction within their networks.
It’s not just about nabbing internships or graduate positions. Building up a list of professional contacts while you’re at university can also boost your employability and confidence, and help you find out as much as you can about the roles and industries you’re interested in.
Taking the first steps
There are plenty of ways to get started, such as joining student societies and professional associations in your field.
It’s important to not only join professional associations, but also get involved – volunteer to help with conferences, and attend networking events and professional development events with the view to getting to know other people and aiming to do informational interviews with them.
An informational interview is where you ask for a short meeting with someone to find out more about what they do. You might ask them about their job, what their pathway has been, and what tips they’d have for someone who’s interested in getting into the workforce. You can also ask them to put you in touch with others who might be helpful for your own career pathway.
Taking advantage of university programs
Looking for networking opportunities might be low on your list of priorities while you’re studying, but you might be surprised to discover the number of events and programs happening right under your nose.
Our Career Ready Advantage Award program focuses on all the key skills and activities employers look for. You’ll build your networking confidence and develop a pitch you can use when talking to a prospective employer – skills that’ll help you be more successful in your career.
Our industry mentoring program, which matches you with an industry professional – including some La Trobe alumni – working in your area of interest, is a great way to make connections while learning about industry. Having someone with industry experience available to answer questions, give you tips and look over your job applications is a great way to help you become career ready.
Networking in the internet age
Online networking is becoming more and more important, and potential employers are quick to Google job applicants. It’s important to proactively create a professional online presence, or ‘brand’, using online tools like LinkedIn.
A professional is one way to take control of that, as well as providing some fantastic networking opportunities.
The Alumni tool on LinkedIn gives La Trobe students access to over 100,000 La Trobe alumni, so there’s opportunities to see how other people who have done your course have progressed in their careers, and to connect with people who are working in various industries. You can make contact with alumni through LinkedIn and initiate informational interviews either by phone or face-to-face.
In the end, that’ll continue to serve you as you progress in your career. It’s not something you stop doing when you finish university and get a job – it’s an important lifelong career management skill that will help you navigate whatever happens in the future.
At La Trobe University, we help you build your professional networks while you study. Want to find out more? Book a one-on-one consultation with us today.