Learning to network at the start of your career
Start growing your network—it will likely be key to landing your first post-grad job.
When many people think of networking, they think of small talk, stalled conversations, and sales pitches. Instead, reframe networking and think of it as making professional connections that will help you in your career, and vice versa. You might meet a future boss, client, mentor, or friend. Right now, you are probably preoccupied with tests, papers, assignments, and extracurricular activities, but it is a great time to start growing your network.
Chances are, you’ll land your first job out of college in part because of someone in your newfound network.
“The best way to get a job or internship is to know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who will help put your resume at the top of the pile or put in a good word for you,” says Lyn Siegel, founder of the career coaching company Interview Mama, “Your network will likely be the most important factor in getting your first job and will continue to be the key throughout your career.”
What is networking?
Think of networking as both a relationship building tool and a tool for learning about your career path. You may have known exactly what you wanted to do when you grew up right when you first arrived on the campus quad, or maybe you are about to toss your hat in the air and you still don’t know what you want to do. Either way, you might not know where you want to work, the type of company culture that will work for you, or tips for breaking into the industry. It’s so valuable to learn from other people’s career paths and advice.
“Networking means, quite simply, talking to people, as many as you can, about specific careers, industries, companies, organizations, and jobs that are of interest to you,” says Siegel. “The goal of networking is also simple: It is to help you advance your career objectives.”
How should you grow your network?
You have the advantage of many campus resources that you can use to start building your network of professional connections, in addition to people off campus.
“Schedule meetings with professors, advisors, leadership of any extracurricular clubs, family members, or any other professional,” says Patrick Algrim, founder of the career advice website Algrim.co. “Simply sit down with them, mention what you'd like to do with your career and then ask, ‘Who do you think I should meet with?’ Once they give a name, ask, ‘Can you introduce us?’”
While you are at it, ask your professors and career services to connect you with alumni in your field who will be happy to help since they are connected to the school and remember what it felt like to be a recent grad. You could also go to recruiting and networking events—virtually, on campus, and off campus—to make your efforts more efficient. Check out Monster's grad site for lots more awesome information.
How should you nurture your network?
Networking isn’t just about meeting up with someone once, asking a few questions, and pulling an Ariana Grande and saying, “Thank you, next.” The goal is to create a genuine relationship by staying in touch and continuing to give one another advice throughout your career.
“Send periodic emails saying that you were thinking of someone,” says Algrim. “Keep track of what they're working on, commend them when something goes public, and mention you were thinking of them.”
As your network continues to grow, it can be hard to keep track of everyone and how often you are staying in touch. Algrim recommends making a spreadsheet. You could include the person’s name, how you meet, when you last reached out, and what you contacted them about. This makes your relationship feel more genuine and less transactional because it helps you ensure that you aren’t only reaching out when you need something.
Networking, in theory, should be pretty simple. You show up, schmooze with some fellow industry types, and watch as your list of professional connections blossoms. In reality, however, this is easier said than done, especially at the start of your career. Could you use some more help? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. In addition, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of health care jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. If you can make even one terrific connection with somebody, that’s better than holding 50 forgettable conversations with a bunch of different people.