The Importance of Business Networking
While completing my undergraduate degree at a private four-year college, there was one piece of advice that was reiterated time and again- There is one crucial, yet often overlooked, element that deserves careful attention when preparing to take on my first job: business networking. Most elite jobs are no longer listed in newspapers or even posted on the internet. In today’s tough economic and job climate, it’s all about who you know. Not sure how to start building your professional network? These tips will help get you on the right track:
Take advantage of programs offered by your school
As a public relations major, I was sure to attend meetings of my school’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). This organization connected me to leaders in the PR field throughout the city, the state, and across the country. Making these connections as a student is vital. By attending meetings, I was introduced to people who were able to connect me to internships, informational interviews, and other opportunities beyond what I learned in the classroom. Building a professional network as early as possible is crucial.
Join professional associations
As a student I started joining local chapters of professional associations and other organizations that are related to my field of study and interests. Even if you have been out of school for some time, be sure to join these associations as soon as possible. People in these groups will take notice and start to introduce themselves to you. Networking can be intimidating, but the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes. It can even start to be fun!
Attend conferences, lectures, etc.
Nowadays, there is a conference for everything. EVERYTHING. Attend those that are related to your field. This is a great opportunity to both increase your knowledge and understanding of your profession as well as meet new people whose interests align with yours. Business networking is easiest and most effective when it happens organically. Surrounding yourself with people who you share something in common with is the most efficient way to build your network.
Have business cards and up-to-date résumés on you at all times
You never know when you are going to meet someone who may be able to help you find your next job or internship. Being able to offer a business card or a complete résumé will guarantee that potential employers and new business contacts know you mean business! Having an attractive business card, even when you are still in school, is the first step in solidifying yourself as a professional.
Once you have made all of these great new professional connections, it’s vital that you keep in touch! Whether you shoot a new contact a friendly email or send a thank you card after an interview, remaining open to communication will only strengthen your new business relationships. Doing this will also keep you in the front of a potential employer’s mind when a position becomes available within their company or organization.
Acquiring a new job is a completely different process than it was just a few years ago. There is an increased level of competition for in-demand, yet scarce jobs. It is up to you to meet the right people and become adept at business networking. Mastering this skill will set you up for much more successful job search process and career.