Students around the world are always looking for opportunities to grow and learn in professional environments that encourage personal development. That’s what internships have always been about. But a major problem Pakistani students face is the lack of opportunities to practice and network in their chosen industries. Without an official online portal or website that connects different professions together, it become hard for students to find jobs or internships as a productive way to spend their summers.
This absence of opportunities sets them back from harnessing their ambitions and hinders their confidence on how to engage with people in the workplace. Because of this, they aren’t able to build networking skills when the time comes – a skill that stays with you for life and is extremely important, regardless of which field you’re in. Students these days are also misunderstood to be irresponsible and impatient – a misconception almost every millennial has to face – probably because most of them are just hungry to put in their energy into work and cannot find a way to do so.
How crucial is it to know how to network today?
There’s no school course taught in particular that emphasizes the importance of networking (although there should be), mostly because it’s not a course with any formula or theory. But that doesn’t lessen its significance. A great resumé is just not enough to land you an internship, especially these days! But building your own personal network can be an integral step towards landing that coveted opportunity.
So what should you do?
Networking can seem overwhelming but that shouldn’t scare you out of giving it a shot! It doesn’t require you to run after people or around offices; it begins from your daily interactions with your professors, peers and even the people you bump into while you’re in line at the grocery store. Talking to your professors can give you an insight into a potential career path. Building a relationship with them can keep you in their minds for whenever they come across an opportunity that might remind them of you.
With your classmates, it’s always important to remember that down the road, you may end up working for them, or with them, so keep in touch! As for the people you bump into randomly, try building a social network as these professional relations could potentially be a great way for you to practice your soft skills.
1. Build A LinkedIn account!
Sounds boring but LinkedIn really is the ultimate platform to start networking (and your career) on. You can connect with people with similar interests or from all kinds of professional fields from around the globe. And, if you’re an introvert, this is a great way to start talking to people from behind the screen. You’d be surprised to hear that a lot of big recruiters actually start their search on LinkedIn and your profile is the first impression they get. Shoot them a message, tell them what areas you’re interested in and what you could bring to the table. It’s a great way to have your foot in the door as a student.
A pro tip: Spend 10 minutes every day on LinkedIn and connect with five people, from recruiters to employees working in an industry that you’re keen on joining eventually. Send a message introducing yourself and ask them if they can answer any questions you may have or see for any company openings, whether it’s for an internship or job. You can even send them your resume for brownie points!
2. Email And Instagram DM’s
Since a lot of really interesting companies these days are social media startups, they don’t have a web portal to connect with. Your best bet here would be to send them a direct message on their Instagram. And don’t be worried about coming off a little creepy! You’re simply making room to build your network and inquiring about an opportunity. A lot of people also have their email address in the Instagram bio, so you can also shoot them an email. The key point to remember here is that you need to be polite and patient. A lot of people don’t end up responding for days, weeks and even months! Not because they’re deliberately ignoring you, but because it’s a busy season or they aren’t looking to recruit at the moment. But that doesn’t mean you need to spam their inbox. Follow up twice at the most and then move on!
3. Participate In Societies In School
Being part of a community is a great way to build a relationship with your peers. It can also help you connect with larger entities that can be a bonus for you when you’re looking to branch out after graduation. It’s also a smart way to explore things that interest you and a way for how you to put forward your ideas. Plus, it looks great on the resume and shows you have the ability to take initiative – employers love that!
4. Alumni Groups
Getting in touch with your school’s alumni has so many benefits, one of them being networking opportunities. Alums are always willing to help out students from their college and have been in your shoes, so they’re the perfect people to get to know for career advice and tips. Having an in with you alumni is also a great way to see any job openings in their field that they may know about. It can give you a head start in applying and a good recommendation! Attending career fairs, which alumni often attend, is another integral part of networking; you can get in touch with companies where your alumni work and see if they’re a good fit for you.
5. Maintain Your Connections
Now that you’ve made some connections, it’s equally important to maintain that relationship with them. Keep in touch; either right after an interview or a small conversation or after a couple of months to have a casual chat, asking about how they’re doing with their work. Or even just to wish them happy holidays when the occasion rolls around. When you land a job through them, send a message thanking them for their help. Usually when recruiters don’t have any opportunities to offer, they ask candidates to check in again later. A great way to hold on to that opportunity is checking in with them routinely and asking for their advice on how you could be a better suited candidate for that particular internship or job.
6. Social Interactions
In case of a social scenario, make sure you’re listening to the person you’re talking to and not just talking about yourself and your achievements the entire time. If you’re not feeling confident at making the first move, try planning it out beforehand. Try making a list of set questions that you want to ask around. Setting a goal will add more purpose and will give you a clear incentive on what you want to achieve. Some people interact better in large groups and some are more comfortable in building individual relationships. If you know which setting suits you better, adjust yourself accordingly.