MSc Finance student Konstantinos Bivolaris shares his experience of building his professional network before graduation, and the importance it plays in broadening your horizons in the world of business.
Building a professional network is a continuous process, and one that you should begin as early as possible. It is particularly important if you are aiming to work in a competitive industry such as finance and consulting, where knowing someone from the company can ensure you get your foot in the door. I believe that this process should begin during your undergraduate degree, because if you wait until you start your postgraduate degree it is difficult to build up a substantial professional network in such a short amount of time. In addition to this, companies tend to open their graduate or internship schemes during August to November for the following year, which is the case in finance and economics related industries. Therefore if you are only just creating your professional network at the start of your Master’s course it will not be beneficial to you when applying for graduate or internship schemes.
Positive first impressions
Building a professional network at any point is better than not building one at all. The CareersPlus team at WBS provide great opportunities for you to attend careers fairs and recruitment events, where you get to meet employers and representatives from different companies and build up vital professional relationships. I would recommend that you go well prepared to these types of events, as you only have one chance to make a first impression. Careers fairs and recruitment events are often very busy, and there isn’t normally enough time to talk to all company representatives, therefore knowing exactly what you want to say, or what information you want to find out is really important.
Learning from others
On a different note, if you lack experience in building a network you may feel awkward communicating with professionals and trying to set up a connection for future career opportunities. From my experience, it is important to be confident, and try to find someone in your immediate circle or one of your classmates who is more experienced in meeting professionals, who you may be able to learn from. In addition to this, remember that professionals attending recruitment events and careers fairs are used to communicating with students, and are often very happy to help you in any way they can. The CareersPlus team can also give you guidance and advice on how best to approach professionals at these type of events.
Create an online presence
So what should you do to build your professional network before graduation? Firstly, you must ensure you have a presence on social media, and the best place to start is with a LinkedIn account. Secondly, focus on the career goals that you have, and think about the professionals within your preferred industry that will be able to help you the most. You will then have a clear direction on who you need to reach out to. The main purpose of using social media to build your professional network is to identify companies in the industry you are most interested in, and connect with relevant employees to find out more information about the skills you may need for the job. Companies often use social media to advise potential job openings, as well as graduate and internship schemes. LinkedIn is also a great way to reach out to alumni who may work in the industry or a particular company you are interested in.
Building your professional network takes time and commitment, so make the most of every opportunity you have to meet professionals whether that be in person or via an online platform such as LinkedIn. You will have to balance this with your study commitments which can be difficult at times, but many postgraduate students decide to do a Master’s degree in order to improve their future job opportunities, and creating a professional network is an important part of this process.
Find out more about our dedicated Finance careers support on our Postgraduate Careers pages.