The idea of networking can be anxiety-provoking for many, no matter what career stage they’re in, leading some to avoid it. Yet, it still remains the number one strategy to land opportunities and an essential component of one’s career development.
Networking is more than talking to strangers; it is a process of building relationships towards a mutual exchange of support, resources, and information. It is also a way of letting others know your skills and passions and getting noticed in the field. (You can’t get noticed if people don’t know you!)
Not sure how to get started? Then lead with your curiosity.
Perhaps you’re wondering what you can do with your degree or concentration or how others with similar backgrounds and experiences landed their roles. Or maybe you’re still exploring and want to know different opportunities you might find meaningful. Find people with direct knowledge of your interest area and start a conversation:
- Faculty, supervisors and colleagues in field, peers, and alumni currently working in your field of interest
- Professionals you admire regardless of their background whom you can connect with through industry events, professional associations, or virtual networking communities, such as those on LinkedIn
- Recruiters, hiring managers, and organizational representatives hosting information sessions and related recruitment and networking activities
Don’t forget that professionals outside your immediate scope of interest can also possess valuable insights, including how to effectively transition from student to professional, advance to leadership positions, or maintain work-life balance and self-care.
Whomever you choose to reach out to, make sure to tailor your conversation to the individual and assess what specifically you hope to learn from them so you can identify your next steps.
If the idea of networking and informational interviewing still feels intimidating, remember that you don’t need to know everything to have a fruitful conversation. Asking questions like “How do I get started?” or “Where do I go from here?” are acceptable conversation starters, particularly with social work educators and alumni. The main goal is to start somewhere!