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Networking and making connections: How it can help your career

A guide to networking & boosting job prospects

Four international students sitting at a networking event discussing their careers
Four international students sitting at a networking event discussing their careers

When it comes to your career, it’s not just about what you know (what you’ve studied and the skills you have) – it’s also about who you know!

So, we’ve put together a guide to networking to boost your job prospects and future career. And remember, it’s a great idea to begin networking while you’re still a student so you can open up exciting opportunities before you’ve even graduated.

What is networking?

In simple terms, networking means connecting with or building relationships with people – and we’re talking about doing this in a professional context. Networking is about developing professional relationships with relevant people and creating a network of people in your field or related fields.

Why is networking important?

Networking is useful in many ways. It can boost your skill set, allow you to meet like-minded people and make you feel part of a professional community. It can even help you get an internship or a job!

Boost your skills

Networking can increase your confidence and improve your social and language skills. Every new connection you make gives you practice in meeting and connecting with new people – being able to start a conversation with a stranger is a super useful talent.

Networking is also a great way to showcase your skills. It’s a good idea to have some samples or a portfolio of your work available on LinkedIn, or a blog or website – that way, people can appreciate your skills at a glance.

Meet like-minded people

Meeting other people who have studied the same degree, travelled the same trajectory as you or are working in the job you want can also be valuable. It can provide insight into how to navigate your career and access people you can turn to for advice.

The potential to find a mentor is another reason to start networking. A mentor is someone who is knowledgeable about your field and can help guide you through your studies and plan for your future career.

Find a job

These days, the job market is a competitive place. This is another reason why networking is so important and useful – it can give you access to the ‘hidden job market’. If you know the right person, you might hear about an internship, job or position before it’s advertised on LinkedIn or Seek, or one that won’t be advertised at all.

If a network of people know about your skill set, someone might even recommend you for the job. The more you keep in touch with professionals you’ve met in your field, the more likely they’ll be to think of you when a relevant position comes up.

This kind of head-start can be invaluable in securing the job you want!

An international student wearing a maroon shirt and sitting on a desk chatting with a colleague to discuss his future career prospects

How can I start building my professional network?

You can get started on building your professional network in both informal and formal ways.

Informal networking

Informal networking involves chatting to other students or people at your education provider. Other students may have useful advice about how they started networking or approaches that worked best for them. As a student, it’s also a great idea to have conversations with your lecturers and tutors – they’re subject experts, after all.

Formal networking

In terms of formal networking, you can join relevant student clubs and societies, and keep an eye out for specific networking events and meetups.

While you’re studying, conferences are one of the best places to network formally because they give you access to some of the most successful people and greatest minds in your field. If you present at a conference, this is a great way to give people an idea of who you are and what you know.

How to network effectively

Importantly, networking is about more than just attending events. It’s essential to have authentic conversations with people – to build a genuine, lasting connection. If you meet someone you connect with, or who seems important to your field, make sure you ask for (and record!) their contact details. It’s a good idea to add them to your LinkedIn network straight away and send them a short message so you stick in their mind.

As you keep in contact and the relationship develops, you could suggest a Zoom catchup or a coffee meeting. This provides a great way of solidifying the connection and also shows you’re proactive and genuinely interested in the relationship.

How can I find networking events near me?

Your education provider is the best place to find networking events near you. Ask your lecturers and tutors if they know of any events coming up, student bodies or community organisations. If your course or education provider has a club or society, they will usually advertise networking events on pin-up boards or in a Facebook group.

Keep an eye on LinkedIn because events may be advertised there too. You can also do a quick Google search from time to time to see if ‘networking’, ‘[your field]’ and ‘[your city]’ brings up any events.

The most important thing is to keep active in trying to build your network. This will ensure you succeed in building connections and boosting your future career.