The business world can be very demanding, especially once you reach university and after you graduate. You are expected to know hard skills, technical skills and soft skills in order to be a well-rounded candidate and be successful in the field you are pursuing. On top of that, massive competition exists, as about hundreds or thousands of individuals are interested in the same position as yourself.
For years people have assumed that by having the most professional looking resume they will have their dream job. However, it’s not that simple. Resumes are merely glimpsed by managers by approximately 10 seconds. Nowadays, most companies won’t even look at each individual one. They will instead pass them all through a software that scans them for keywords or phrases. So a resume may have the potential to get you an interview but the probability of you getting the position is relatively low.
So the question is, what can truly set you apart from the pool of candidates when applying for an internship, a co-op placement or a full-time position?
Well, a list of different tasks exists. While there is no requirement to do them all or to follow a specific order when doing them, the most recommended by upper year students, alumni, professors, recruiters and individuals in the workplace is networking.
At this point I assume that if you are entering the business world you have heard about this word a few hundred times. If not, let me explain what it means and why it is such a crucial task.
Networking is the process or action of interacting with individuals to exchange valuable information about skills, job descriptions, work environments, interests, etc. This is done to create professional or social contacts.
Why is it important? It could potentially create endless opportunities for you. It can also allow you to understand a position you would like to apply for or are interested in better than a job posting. Most importantly, if the individuals you network with are related to the position you wish to apply to, they could even offer you advice on what helped them obtain their own position.
Note that networking could be done with anyone. Students, alumni, professors, even your parents’ friends or your neighbours. Everyone who has work experience can give you advice or share their stories with you regardless of their position or age.
Now, there are a few ways you could network with individuals.
If you wish to network with industry professionals, attending conferences or case competitions will give you a relatively high chance of meeting these individuals. On the other hand, some people, especially students, will take the initiative to contact them by using the cold email approach.
If you wish to network with recruiters, cold emailing or a quick message through LinkedIn to schedule a coffee chat could take you a long way. Recruiters are known for almost always answering back and making time for anyone who genuinely seems interested in the company or roles offered by the company they work for.
If you wish to network with upper year students and alumni, joining school clubs and attending their events can give you a great advantage and help you start a conversation. You can also reach out to them through LinkedIn, Facebook or social media platforms. As for professors, you can connect with them more personally by going to their office hours, setting up an appointment or asking them questions via email. All of these individuals will be more than happy to share their stories with you and offer advice for you to succeed during recruitment. If you’re lucky they could even refer you to someone.
Lastly, let me just give you some quick advice.
Regardless of who you network with, there is a simple networking etiquette you should follow.
- Be respectful, be professional and do your research to ask relevant questions.
- Avoid asking questions that could be answered by looking at their LinkedIn, unless they don’t have one or it’s your first time meeting them without notice in advance.
- Avoid asking personal questions (e.g. What is your salary?, etc)
- Make sure you don’t waste valuable time; Remember that majority of the people you network with have busy schedules and you wasting their time harms your image and makes them delay their job or important events
So make sure to step out of your comfort zone. Start a conversation. Network with individuals.
By doing this, I guarantee you will get your name out there, recruiters will be able to put a face to your resume and remember you over other applicants. And who knows, you could even get a reference to a hiring manager or ace your interview due to the advice you received.