Connecting and interacting with people virtually in both a personal and professional capacity has become the new norm. So, in this new normal how can students and graduates’ network, grow their connections and plan for the future post Covid-19?
gradireland editor Ruairi Kavanagh talked to Ntsoaki Phakoe-McKevitt, careers coach at Dublin Business School, to find out.
Normal life has been turned upside down for everyone but for students and graduates who were preparing for their future, what do they do now? Previous generations followed a path which could be replicated and improved upon but in these unprecedented times, how do students and graduates proceed?
According to Ntsaoki, they can still fall back on practises that are tried and tested and that they would have been engaging in regardless of the pandemic.
“I would always advise students that are in final year that, you should be networking. Any career events that your college would have put on, that would have been the best time to start to interact with people. At this stage you should have attended a couple of careers talks or webinars, you should have attended careers events and you should have sent on a couple of connection requests on LinkedIn. Think of an event or a talk that you might have gone to, who were the interesting speakers, reach out and connect with them.”
- Get personal
“When you are looking at roles it’s key to build your network specific to the areas you are looking to get into. If you have a couple of job roles that you are getting notified about, it’s no harm to connect to the person who posted that role because you might be able to link in with them. You might be able to identify a mutual connection so you could get that person to introduce you to that recruiter or introduce you to someone who might be a decision maker in the company.”
- Reach out
“You join an organisation because there’s something about that company that draws you in, attracts you and motivates you to apply. If there are any companies you are looking to get involved with, connect with them on LinkedIn, see who is working for them, once again identify your mutual connections and get in contact with them or even just start a conversation with someone who works in the organisation who you have already been connected with before-hand.”
How to portray the best you
Everyone knows the term networking, and students hear it all the time in relation to graduate jobs, but what are some of the best practices to adhere to when making a connection on LinkedIn?
“Some of my tips for LinkedIn would be, maybe you haven’t changed your profile picture in a while, you should look to revamp it. It’s always good to change your summary section now and again because you’re always learning new things and you’re always acquiring new skills. A lot of students will be completing their studies soon, so they’re no longer students, they are now actively looking for work, so it’s important to reflect that. Always update. If you have any projects going on or if you have done things in the last couple of months and just haven’t had the chance to display them on your LinkedIn profile, now is the perfect time. Update your profile with images as well which will make your profile media rich.”
It can be easily forgotten that LinkedIn is a social media platform so it’s important to keep up to date with what topics are being discussed and what people are engaging with most recently.
“It’s great even to just jump on what’s trending. Make sure you understand Covid-19 and the pandemic. People are recommending changes to mental health and health and safety exercises, how to do this, how to do that so keep on top of those changes. Maybe you might have some advice about what’s working for you. Create a conversation that way, building up engagement on your profile.”
Use the past to help you move forward
Is delving into your past and connecting with former work colleagues a good way to expand your LinkedIn connections?
“I’ve had a couple of people I’ve worked with in the past reaching out just to see how I am, how I’m coping, how I’m getting on, which it’s really good! The fact of the matter is that they’re able to recommend and suggest opportunities that are out there that they have knowledge about, or they may be in talks with someone who they may be able to leverage. It’s good to build conversations. It’s no harm keeping up with those contacts even if they’re not currently recruiting, because they likely will be in the future.”
Are adding references to your LinkedIn profile worthwhile or should you wait until you have further progressed in your career?
“I think it’s great. I have given some references in the past myself but as a student it’s a valuable way of having someone reflect on your time working with them so that they can highlight your key competencies and areas of development as well. When you’re constantly promoting yourself it’s a great way of getting someone else to back you up and It also helps to give a little insight into your personality and how other people perceive you.
As a student or graduate you will have been told to connect with people on LinkedIn and start conversations with employers but that is easier said than done. In the first part of our interview, Ntsaoki gives practical advice which you can implement to help you to get the conversation started about your graduate career.
Look out for part 2 of our conversation where Ntsaoki gives some tips and tricks on how to make the most of social media and we also look to the future, post Covid-19.