The Importance Of Networking

Posted by | August 24, 2012 | Tips For Job Seekers

I recently attended a Student Leadership day as a volunteering Alumni. The point of my presence was to network with the students during their lunch break. I was pleasantly surprised. I had a steady stream of students coming over to chat and ask about how my education had benefited my career and how I managed to get where I am.

Two questions really stood out for me. I generally don’t like to sugarcoat my answers and I wasn’t about to let their status as students influence me to do so.

1. What is the one piece of advice you can give us to help us prepare for graduation and work?

It took a moment to formulate my answer, but it relayed like this: Network. Yes, they are students but that should not prevent them from doing so. I commended them on the fact that they were attending the Student Leadership day (on a Saturday, no less) and approaching the Alumni to chat. I threw out a line that someone once told me – Alumni love helping Alumni. I can certainly attest to the truthfulness of this statement, as I have accessed help and insight from fellow Alumni in the past. I recommended they continue to access the events that the school puts on and connect with Alumni and seek out those who they feel work in professions they are interested in. While it may not be rocket science, it was clearly a revelation they had not yet arrived at. Networking is not always a fast move, but a conscious effort to maintain your network will pay off in the end. I was quite pleased when I received a LinkedIn contact request Monday morning from one of the students I spoke with on the weekend.

2. How did you get into a marketing job?

My first response was to clarify for them that I am technically a career counselor who is filling an internal short term marketing contract. I then shared that I thoroughly enjoyed marketing so in every job I’ve had since graduating, I’ve looked for opportunities in my role to branch out and pick up tasks related to marketing, along with volunteering for different groups to fulfill marketing roles. Up until now, I’ve never been able to land a job in marketing. However, I can whip up a resume and have a strong showing of marketing related activities and accomplishments for the past 10 years. It’s the effort you put in – that was my main message. If no one is handing you the kind of job you want, it’s up to you to gain the experience and learn how to do it, so that you will eventually become the desirable canadidate.

I certainly enjoyed talking with students and I hope that they were able to walk away from chatting with myself and other Alumni feeling like they gained something. I have to admit, it was nice to chat with people who have yet to be jaded by the working world. And you never know, one day those students may be the ones doing the hiring. I’d be best to keep that in mind and continue to include them in my networking circles!

~ Melissa Macfarlane is a Career Development Professional with Northern Lights Canada.

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