MSc Business with Consulting student Vanessa Wai Lok shares her experience of building her professional network before graduation, and the importance it plays in broadening your horizons in the world of business.
Professional networking is not something to be taught in a class or lecture, but it plays a vital role in our lives. I found it exceptionally important to network with people working within my field of study, who are thought leaders in their area of expertise. Here are some tips I found useful to build my professional network before graduating from WBS.
1. Get to know your professors and classmates
Not only can our teaching fellows offer valuable industry insight and advice, but they’ve also taught lots of very bright students in the past. By talking to your professors, and building up a relationship you can ensure that you stand out from the crowd. It is also valuable to meet with other professors, who may have not taught you before, but are experts in the subject area that you are interested in.
Always remember to reach out to your friends and family, as you will be surprised how many people your friends and family already know in the business world. A great way to initiate conversations is to talk about your interests and future career goals. You should take the opportunity to speak to all your classmates, not just the ones in your friendship group, as you never know what knowledge they may be able to give you. After all, networking is all about building up new relationships and making friends.
2. Participate in campus events
WBS and the University of Warwick host multiple events on campus which are available to all students to attend, and these events provide a great opportunity for you to meet some amazing people. You are not only able to connect with other students from different faculties, but you are also able to connect with speakers, advisers, and mentors. Whilst you are studying at WBS you will be surrounded by lots of talented students who are full of enthusiasm and courage, so seize the opportunity to meet the future change makers. Or even better, be a change maker yourself, and inspire others with your ideas, interests, and aspirations.
3. Your online profile is just as important as your physical presence
Nowadays it is not only businesses that require an online presence, the same rule applies to individuals to ensure you market yourself online to future employers. It is important to build an online presence on a professional platform like LinkedIn, where you can create a business profile highlighting your qualifications, skills and experience. If you are planning to enter the marketing and media industry, then it is a good idea to also create your own website with an online portfolio to showcase your work.
Along with professional platforms, social media is also becoming a pivotal platform to demonstrate your online presence, therefore it is important that your social media profiles are professionally presented. WBS has an alumni group on LinkedIn and Facebook which is extremely helpful when building a network. Alumni will often post job openings and other work-related opportunities as a way of attracting potential candidates.
4. Take the first initiative
Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking to start a conversation because it can feel awkward and embarrassing. However, this is often because you are overthinking the situation. Established professionals are used to communicating and helping graduates find their way in the business world so communicating with them isn’t something you should be scared of. Often it is a compliment to ask someone for advice, so you shouldn’t be afraid to make the first move when it comes to building your network. Be confident and genuine, and focus on building connections with professionals who have similar interests to you, rather than focusing on building as many connections as you can.
5. Invest your time
Networking isn’t just a one time job, it requires an investment of your time. Make sure you keep your LinkedIn profile regularly updated, so it remains active, and follow topics of discussion and leaders who share similar interests to you. It is a good idea to reach out to certain professionals and alumni on LinkedIn by contacting them directly via email, you will be surprised by the number of positive responses that you receive. When you attend networking events, always stay until the end and seize the moment to introduce yourself to the professionals in attendance.
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