How to Succeed in Your First Job

How to Grow Your Professional Network

Growing your professional network as a student or recent grad is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for long-term professional success. What’s the best way to do this? By reaching out to people in your personal network and connecting with alumni of your college or university who are working in a field you’d like to work in.

Here are some things to keep in mind when growing your professional network.

1. Reach out to people within your social and alumni networks

Although you may not have much (or any) professional experience, you likely already know plenty of people who can be part of your professional network. The key is to identify them. The best way to do this is by taking some time to make a list of everyone in your social and academic circles. When compiling your list, include everyone from family friends to professors and peers, and don’t limit yourself to a specific industry. Instead, focus on making your list as broad and inclusive as possible to ensure that you’re building a strong network. Once you have your list, identify 2-3 people who can help you develop your career goals. Then, reach out to them and ask to set up a time to chat (either in person or over the phone), and use your time to talk to them about your career goals and to get their advice on steps you can take to achieve them.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to reach out to people within your school’s alumni network. Many alumni are actively involved with mentoring students and recent grads from their alma maters and even those who aren’t are likely to be flattered that you reached out to ask for their advice.

2. Stay in touch with co-workers and managers from previous jobs and internships

Once you have some professional experience under your belt (such as an internship or part-time job), make it a priority to stay in touch with former managers and co-workers. This will ensure that you’re building long-lasting relationships and leaving the door open for new opportunities that may arise in the future. The best way to do this is by reaching out a couple of months after the internship has ended to let your former manager know how you’re doing and to ask them about any updates on their end.

Pro Tip: Be specific. Instead of sending a vague email asking how they’re doing, ask about the outcome of a project you worked on together or about a trip they were planning to take. This will show them that you’re interested in establishing a genuine relationship and that you care about the work you produced while you were with the organization.

3. Make use of your social media accounts

Although social media is more often seen as a personal space rather than a professional one, using it as a networking tool is a great way to connect with people in an organic way while showing off a bit of your personality. This can be as simple as “liking” the Facebook page of a particular brand you admire or tweeting at an influencer about something they’re working on. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to be respectful in your interactions and to put your best foot forward.

4. Be genuine and helpful in your interactions

When done right, networking can be a powerful tool for advancing your career and creating the kinds of relationships that will stick with you throughout your professional life. And if you want to ensure that those relationships are authentic and long lasting, it’s important to approach networking opportunities with a genuine interest in getting to know the other person and being as helpful to them as possible. By demonstrating your desire to create a strong professional bond, you’re likely to develop the kinds of relationships that will be mutually beneficial to everyone involved.

Although growing your professional network might seem a bit intimidating at first, by approaching it in a thoughtful and strategic way, you’ll be able to set yourself up for long-term success.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Be a Team Player and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Strengths?