How can I start my professional network?

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PNetworkingErin from University of Texas at Dallas asked:

“I’m getting ready to graduate in the spring, but haven’t found a job yet. People often find jobs by knowing someone who knows someone, but how can I meet people who would want to hire me when I’m still in school?”

Thank you for your question, Erin! You’re right, having professional connections greatly enhances your job prospects. When you know-someone-who-knows-someone, there’s a certain level of validity and accountability attached to your name that you can’t achieve with a resume alone. It can be a daunting prospect to start your professional network, especially before you begin working, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Create and Maintain your Presence Online

With our ever growing reliance on technology, it’s no wonder that the internet has become a place to connect and communicate with professionals. Your online profile may be the first point of contact for your future coworkers and employers, so put your best foot forward!

If you haven’t created a LinkedIn profile, do so now! Your LinkedIn page is essentially an online living resume, and is the go-to place for professionals to connect. Keep it up to date and professional, the same way you would a paper resume. Create a career twitter to follow industry leaders and companies you want to work for, and make sure your email address is professional and appropriate to share with employers. Please, no or!

Make an effort to clean up your past social media activities before moving your job search online. As you become a valid candidate, employers may search your profile not only on LinkedIn, but on twitter, Facebook, instagram etc… Do you best to remove or make private any embarrassing photos, comments or any information that may compromise your job search efforts. In the same way you’d dress your best for an interview, you want your online brand to be a good first impression.

Join a Professional or Civic Organization

A good way to meet professionals is to go where they congregate. Almost all career fields have an official organization which often hosts panels, conventions, conferences and fairs specifically so members can connect with each other and share information to enhance their work. Attending these events, even before you’ve graduated, gives you a head start on your networking! We have a list of Professional Organizations you can sort through by industry, and you can find some local resources here.

While there is almost always a membership fee, there are frequently student discounts. Consider it an investment in your future career!

Utilize the Network on your Campus

Your professors and deans are a great place to start, after all they are professionals in your field and are likely connected with other professionals out side of the school. Don’t neglect connecting with your peers as well. They will also be joining the workforce soon, and if they find a position before you, they can put in a good word or tip you off if they hear anything.

Career Fairs are a frequent sight on every school campus, and the perfect place to network as a student. Recruiters attend to answer questions and find possible candidates, so treat career fairs like an interview. Not sure when the next career fair is? Visit your Campus Career Office for details and more local resources for your networking and job search efforts.

Make a Difference

Networking is not something you can set and forget. Like most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in. If you invest time in communicating and growing your network, it will work for you in turn. Engage in discussions on LinkedIn. Contribute relevant articles or helpful information. Tweet at and retweet leaders in your field. Make a name for yourself as an engaged and knowledgeable member of your professional community. Prove that you are an asset, and your colleagues will gladly attach their name to yours.

Even after you find a job, don’t neglect your network! Continue to add coworkers, leaders in your field, and business acquaintances to LinkedIn. Remain active online, and attend professional development and networking conferences. The more you work on your network, the harder it will work for you!

Best of Luck!


About the Author

Esme Smith

Esme received her M.A. In Counseling from St. Edward's University, and worked with students at Concordia University Texas' Career Center. She developed a passion for Career Counseling after leaving undergrad without much guidance, and grappling with unsatisfying work. She strives to help others bridge the gap between graduation and "the real world."

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