Developing your professional network early on in your career is critical for establishing professional connections and career prospects. The following are some steps you can take to build your network:
- Participate in networking events: Take part in job fairs and other networking events hosted by your employer or community. In addition to meeting professionals in your field of interest, these events are also a great chance to network.
- Connect with companies you are interested in working at through their career website and social channels. Most employers now build brand awareness and promote events through social channels and their website. Engaging with them allows you to learn more about them and it allows them to communicate to their prospective candidates about upcoming events, opening roles., etc.
- Join workplace social groups like Employee Resource Groups. The opportunity to join an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or any social group at your company can be a valuable way for you to interact with the company's community, network with peers, and get to know the company's culture.
- Contact alumni who work in your field of interest from your university. Alumni can be found through your university's alumni network or LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn is a great tool for building your professional network where you’ll be able to get connected to professionals in your field of interest. If you are interested in a specific field, you can also join LinkedIn groups.
- Request informational interviews from professionals in your field. This is a great way to learn more about their career path, as well as to gain valuable insight and advice (below is a template you can use).
How to reach out to individuals for a “coffee chat”?
You should respect the time and schedule of individuals when approaching them for a "coffee chat" or informational interview. To get you started, here are some tips:
- Prior to contacting someone, research the individual. You will show that you have actually done your research and are sincerely interested in what they’re doing.
- Make sure your email is concise: Introduce yourself briefly, explain why you want to reach out and suggest a time that works for you.
- Remember to be flexible! You should be considerate of the busy schedule of the person you’re contacting. It's important to be flexible and offer alternative times and dates if needed.
- Remember to be respectful of their time: Keep the meeting short and to the point. After the meeting, be sure to thank them for their time and follow up with a thank-you note (find a thank-you template below).
Taking these steps can help you establish valuable connections and build a strong professional network early on in your career.