March 7th, 2014
I’m currently right in the middle of my summer practicum application process. For many students, grad students included, now is generally the time where you start thinking about summer jobs and career prospects. Since most of us are on the same boat right now, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some career-related things, and share some experiences I’ve had over the years.
A big buzzword we hear all the time is “networking”. They always tell us that networking can help us find a good job, and it’s about who you know, not what you know. Now, I don’t have a whole lot of work experience, and I also don’t really know if the merits of networking are as great as they say. Networking isn’t the magic ritual that can get you a great job. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a job, no matter how many success stories you hear. In reality, I find that networking is much more about getting to know people who can help you help yourself. It’s not who you know, but how you know them, that will help you the most in the long run.
Take myself, for example. I’m relatively young, and have very little “real world” experience to speak of. When I applied for my first real job (as communications intern at U of T), I found and got the job not because someone I know pulled some string to get me in, but because I was able to take advantage of the networks I had already. At the time, my network was largely Twitter based. Someone I was following posted a link to the job application. I just happened to click on it, and here I am, still blogging for U of T!
The funny thing about networks is that you have to grow it when you’re not looking to “use” it (i.e. looking for a job), so that when you do need it, it’s right there. The great thing about it is that it’s really easy to do. I don’t know about you, but when I hear people talking about networking and how critical it is, I get really nervous. But the truth is, your network is probably pretty big, more so if you’re a grad student. The trick is learning how to tap into that network. Trish, our past blogger has written about it before. Today I’ll share three of my tips with all of you.
1. Be a connector
Networking is a two way street. Some of the best career speakers I’ve heard talk about networking not as something someone else can do for you, but something you can do for them. Practically speaking, you have to give the person your incentive for connecting with you. What you’re doing is forming a two way relationship that is mutually beneficial. Don’t just network with them, connect.
2. Think about social media
Social media is also another buzzword you may have heard. While there are strong opinions about using social media to network, I personally find platforms like Twitter to be very useful in helping identify people I want to talk to and learn from. I built a good part of my career so far around social media, and really believe that knowing how to use it, and becoming comfortable with it, can help you know who to know. The culture around social media also helps with the how part – no need to craft a letter! Just tweet them.
Commenting on blogs (like this one!) is like networking too
3. Be genuine
I know that I’ve made a good connection when I think to myself, “this person has offered to help me, and they’re not just saying that.” No one likes a person who is only out for themselves, and no one likes a person they feel like they don’t know. Don’t be that person!
Do you have any networking tips? Share them in the comments below!