5 Ways to Build a Professional Network from Scratch

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What do you want to be when you are grown up? A lot of people are rambling on about the importance of a network when finding a job. As it turns out, they might be right! Most individuals find a job through their professional network. But how can you build a network if you are not even sure what kind of job you want?

As the Commercial Relations Officer of Cedo Nulli, I am in constant contact with a lot of companies in different industries. This has taught me what companies look for in new employees and how you should behave when you are around recruiters. And let me tell you: I can hardly wait to share those insights with you!

Step 1 out of 5:

  1. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. Similar to when you are trying to find the perfect boyfriend, you should know what you are looking for before starting your search. It is no use building a network randomly: it has to be in line with your wishes!
    • Think about what interests you. There must be something that makes you feel passionate, right? If you are not quite sure about what this is, you can try making a list of elements you would love in a job. This will help you to find an industry which suits you.
    • Think about what your ambitions are. Ask yourself how much you want to challenge yourself every day. Don’t forget to take into account how important free time and salary is for you. This will help you to find a job position which you might like.
    • Explore! As a student, it is incredibly hard to know what kind of companies are out there. I promise you: there are a lot more companies you can work for than you might expect. Therefore, try to explore as much opportunities as possible and keep your options open.

Step 2 out of 5:

  1. HAVE A PRO-ACTIVE ATTITUDE. Want to stand out from the crowd? Show recruiters that you are eager to learn more about career opportunities and that you are not afraid to undertake actions of your own. After all, the job of your dreams will not simply be presented to you. Having a pro-active attitude will show a recruiter that you are confident and willing to go an extra mile.

Step 3 out of 5:

  1. KNOW HOW TO GET IN CONTACT. Maybe this is a part that seems frightening to most. However, I am here to tell you that it is so much easier to do than you might think! The smallest effort can go a long way. Don’t forget that companies are happy to talk to talented students like yourself (yes, I mean you).
    • Send an e-mail to a recruiter, or even better: call them! By getting into contact with a company, the recruiter has at least seen your name once before. This might give you a head start. Just keep it casual! Tell them who you are and ask them for their next recruiting event.
    • Visit networking events. Career related events such as a connection drink can be extremely valuable to your network, since you will get to meet a lot of recruiters at once. Keep your eye on the Cedo Nulli Facebook. They organise multiple networking opportunities every year.
    • Get the most out of your LinkedIn account. Make sure your profile is up to date. Did you talk to someone at an event? Add them to LinkedIn! A lot of recruiters use LinkedIn as a way to reach out to you. Therefore, make sure your networking efforts are shown on your profile.

Step 4 out of 5:

  1. KNOW WHAT COMPANIES ARE LOOKING FOR. Interestingly enough, most companies look for very similar features in future employees. Whether you want to work for a big banking company or show off your skills in the creative industry, they will select you based on a certain attitude, skill set and competencies.
    • Your major doesn’t matter, your level does. Never in my board year so far, have I talked to a recruiter which said that it mattered what type of major you did. It is actually very likely that you end up in an extremely farfetched industry. Did you know that even IT companies are looking for Psychology students?
    • Extra-curricular activities show that you brought your theoretical knowledge into practice. Most people take part in these kind of activities to build their CV. Forget about that: everybody is doing it anyway so it won’t let you stand out from the crowd. However, it does have added value! It shows that you are able to study scientific material and apply it to different kind of situations. Additionally, it will improve your skills.
    • Above all, companies want an enthusiastic and ambitious new employee. They will teach you the skills which are required later. Most companies have a traineeship during which they will teach you everything you need to know in order to work there.

Step 5 out of 5:

  1. IMPRESS THEM! When you are finally in direct contact with a recruiter, you have to be aware of your appearance and body language. As they say: “you will never get a second chance at a making first impression”. The ultimate goal is for the recruiter to go home and remember you for a while.
    • Show them you know what they are looking for. Make sure you know a little something about a company before approaching them. If you know what their vision is, you can have a more in depth conversation with a recruiter than most others.
    • Show them that you are what they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to tell them what competencies and skills you have. You are not boasting! They need to know what you can offer them. If you stay too humble, others may outshine you.
    • Dress to impress. Make sure you dress appropriately to the occasion. Also pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. If you are talking confidently about yourself, make sure that your behaviour matches the story!
    • Use humour. Don’t be afraid to drop a couple of jokes. This will show that you are not too nervous about talking to them. In addition, the recruiter is more likely to remember a fun conversation than a boring one. Remember: recruiters are humans too!

By now it is probably clear to you why a professional network is worthwhile investing in. Ultimately this might be the way you will start a successful career. By having a pro-active attitude and impressing recruiters you might give yourself a head start on the labour market. Therefore make sure that you visit networking events and that you keep exploring your opportunities!

By Sarina C.M. Verwijmeren

 

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