By Claudia Alp
In today’s day and age, with employment opportunities becoming more and more competitive, a question which college students frequently ask themselves is: will I be able to become employed in my chosen field after I graduate? This is a topic which can be extremely stressful to certain students and even cause them to lose motivation at times. However, don’t lose hope because there is a way to get yourself noticed whilst still studying which will assist you in finding work in your chosen field or a similar industry later down the track! This is done by establishing networks.
Establishing networks is all about making contacts with industry professionals in the field of employment that you are pursuing and making enquiries about opportunities that could be beneficial to you. This can be a daunting task for some, but the results that arise from making contacts can be the difference between you having the career you’ve always dreamed of or having to settle for something much less exciting.
Here are some steps which you can follow to establish your own network:
1. Create an opportunity database: An opportunity database is a simple document (Microsoft Excel is fantastic for this) which will allow you to record any opportunities that might appeal to you including work experience, internships, short courses, workshops, and events. In the opportunity database, you can document what the opportunity is, what company or organisation is running it, a short description of the opportunity, its location, its date, and the cut off date for applications if required. You should also record the name of the contact person listed for enquiries which leads into step number 2.
2. Create a contact database: A contact database is an extension of your opportunity database where you can record any contacts listed for enquiries into your chosen opportunities as well as any other industry professional you come across during your studies or through your opportunities. The contact database should include their name, the company or organisation that they work for, their position in the company or organisation, contact details (preferably a phone number but an email address is good as well), and if you’ve met them already, it’s handy to make a short note of how and where so that you can connect with them on a more personal level if you ever need to contact them again.
3. Look up opportunities: Start looking up opportunities that appeal to you in the industry that you would like to be a part of. Make notes of any important information that you can’t find on their website or of anything extra that you would like to know.
4. Contact your opportunities: Using the notes you took, write out some questions that you would like to ask and call the contact listed for each opportunity. Writing out questions is always useful so that you don’t forget anything you need to know. It’s also helpful if you’re like me and still get nervous talking to adults on the phone! If possible, avoid using email or social media as the first form of contact. A telephone call is much more personal and will allow you to get more information out of the conversation as well as allowing you to connect much more efficiently with the industry professional on the other line. Take notes of any information they give you and record it in your opportunities database for future reference.
5. Meet your contacts in person: The final step to establishing networks is to arrange a meeting with the contact or industry professional that you’ve been in touch with! This can be done during the phone conversation. It’s as simple as: “I’d love to hear more about this opportunity. Would it be possible for me to come down to the office when you’re available and discuss it in greater detail?” Not only do most Industry Professionals remember when they were in your shoes and are happy to discuss the opportunity with you in person, but your enthusiasm to learn more will definitely work in your favour.
6. Express your gratitude: It’s always courteous to send a follow up email after a personal meeting or a phone conversation to thank your contact for taking the time to speak/meet with you and for assisting you in your knowledge of the opportunity or job industry. Showing gratitude also displays a willingness to accept more assistance in the future and will encourage your contact to keep you in mind if any other opportunities become available.
By following those six steps, you’ll be able to establish a network across your chosen field of employment! Whether you’re looking for work experience or steady employment after graduation, having contacts in the Industry is extremely beneficial, because even if they can’t directly help you become employed, they may be aware of opportunities through their contacts in the Industry and just like that, you’re well on your way to post-graduate employment!