It may seem obvious that connections are useful in a job search, but you might not know that a personal contact at an organization can make or break your chance at getting hired. Below are five strategies you can adopt to expand your professional network and make genuine connections, which can be paramount to landing an internship or post-graduate job.
1. Reach out to upperclassmen and recent alumni
Whether it be seniors in your sorority or recent alumni who were on your sports team, make an effort to reach out to older acquaintances with similar career interests to you. Ask them to grab coffee to discuss their internship or job experiences, as they can offer valuable insight into navigating the job search process. If they are alumni, they may even know of current job openings and offer to refer you to them.
2. Join an extracurricular group related to your intended career path
Your school offers countless extracurricular opportunities, some of which may be relevant to the industry you wish to enter. Whether you join a finance club or student publication, you’ll become part of a network of individuals interested in the same field as you. Certain organizations will even bring in guest speakers who are professionals in their field and can provide valuable career advice.
3. Attend networking events and career fairs
Visit your college’s career services website and you will discover many networking and career-related events. You may not hear about these opportunities unless you seek them out yourself, so the onus is on you to do your research. Since career fairs are not mandatory, attending them can distinguish you from your peers and enable you to connect with potential employers. At any career-related event, be sure to gather business cards from the individuals you talk to, so that you can follow up later and ask about internship or job openings.
4. Schedule an informational interview
If you’re interested in working at a particular company and happen to know a person who works there, ask to schedule an informational interview with them. If you do not have a contact, check to see if you have access through your career center to a database of alumni from your school who work in various industries. If your school provides such a resource, reach out to alumni to request an informational interview. To prepare, make sure to develop a list of questions, do your company research, and print copies of your résumé. And don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note!
5. Create a LinkedIn profile
While making connections in person is often preferable, you can reach different networks of contacts through an online platform such as LinkedIn, which will expose you to even more opportunities. LinkedIn enables you to highlight your accolades and experiences, and you can indicate your interest in certain industries and organizations. The more you use the platform and update it with your accomplishments, the more profile views you will accrue, which translates into more exposure to employers. You may even find yourself receiving cold-call messages from recruiters interested in hiring an employee with your experience. Whether you build connections through LinkedIn, campus organizations, or your school’s alumni network, you will find that these contacts can be invaluable in your job search.
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