How to network with industry professionals: a guide for business majors
It can be difficult working out how to network with industry professionals when you’re a student. Sometimes students feel too sheltered on campus, something people feel intimidated by industry professionals. Here are some tips for your networking arsenal.
Making Connections at Part-time Jobs and Internships
Many people have part-time jobs in high school and uni to start saving money, but it’s not common for someone to think of their stint as a grocery store cashier as a networking opportunity. On the contrary, it’s important to stay in touch with co-workers and supervisors from part-time jobs if you can. These are people who may have connections they can put in a good word for you later, or they could be able to provide you with solid recommendations based on your relationship and skillset.
You can do this with internships as well. For example, if you’re interning at a b2b ecommerce company and think the work is really something you can see yourself doing in your professional career, don’t be afraid to say so. You can discuss this with your supervisor at the company, the team you work with, or the professor overseeing your internship from campus. Chances are, the company you’re interning at is on the lookout for people interested in establishing a career there, and if not, the company should have a wide network of its own and be able to recommend you for a position elsewhere.
Leveraging Your Personal Network
It’s quite common for companies to ask for professional references when posting open positions, but just because a connection is professional doesn’t mean it has to be someone like your previous supervisor. Oftentimes, you can list a current or former tutor, co-workers from your team, people from other departments you worked closely with on a project, and even club and sports team members. Make sure you keep in touch with these people. Email your professors regularly after graduation, get together with former co-workers for coffee sometimes and hang onto the phone numbers of old club members.
Joining Professional Networking Groups
Most universities will host club fairs early in the semester. Check for professional networking groups at these events and on notice boards. Oftentimes these associations will host model networking events, provide trips to actual networking events and bring in professionals from the industry to meet with students. These groups will help you learn about the path you want to take and make sure it’s right for you, meet current industry professionals and network with future members of the industry. And this isn’t just limited to participating in Model UN meetings if you’re majoring in political science. You should join clubs for hobbies you’re interested in or interests you want to expand. You could very well meet an important future connection by joining the chess club or a dance ensemble.
It might not seem as urgent as the first impression, but the most important thing you can do when networking is to follow up with your connection. It’s not enough to just meet. You need to actively cultivate the relationship. Otherwise, the most likely outcome is dropping off the connection’s radar. You should also remember to forge a genuine relationship. Don’t just get in touch when you need something. Make an effort to make the benefits mutual. Try to congratulate the connection on milestones and incorporate contacting them into your routine. Be there if they need you, too. The best kind of professional networking connection you can make is someone who also has the potential to be a friend and support.
Ideally, you’ll be able to combine some or all of these tips into a winning networking strategy for yourself. Don’t be afraid to use some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, and be willing to get a little bit outside your comfort zone.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on interior design, budgeting hacks and workplace tips. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing the little ones around or can be found rock climbing at the local climbing gym.