Apologies (yet again) for taking almost 1.5 months to update the blog. I don’t actually have any excuses for myself this time around, it’s a mixed of being lazy and handling so many things at the same time (Malindo Night, helping a friend with her elections campaign, spending time with Aiman, doing a bunch of other things as always).
Obligatory note: This is obviously coming from a not-so-fresh-graduate, so do take it with a grain of salt. I’ll be sharing some of my experiences in networking and connecting with professionals in my area, and how you can use it in your own life.
Utilizing the power of LinkedIn
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, I would recommend having one. It is the professional-version of Facebook, which you can use to connect with potential employers and other professionals.
One thing I like about LinkedIn is that it can also serve as an online resume for you, as you can update it with your past experiences and any achievements and/or projects that you have done.
You can also put a link to your LinkedIn profile in your resume, and potential employers can visit your page to learn more about your professional life. Use this opportunity to fill your LinkedIn profile with valuable contents, such as sharing informational posts, taking part in discussions and/or creating good content.
Who knows, maybe one good post can help you land a job? After all – haven’t you heard of the Malaysian guy who went viral recently for a post he made on LinkedIn? If he can do it, why not you?
You can start to grow your LinkedIn presence by following professionals in your industry. It would also be useful to connect with headhunters and/or recruiters, as they are always sharing new openings and vacancies.
Some of my favorite people to follow on LinkedIn include:
- Hanie Razaif-Bohlender – I’ve met her in person when working at Monash University Malaysia, and she’s super friendly!
- Saw Ann Ping – She’s a talented headhunter/recruiter, and has cool stories to share
- Alyaa Ahmad Jais – She’s inspiring with lots of interesting perspective and experiences.
- Ong Shen Kwang – You’ll have a mixture of envy and awe when you read his posts, they’re just inspiring!
- David Wee – He posts a lot of motivating and inspiring stories to make you think.
Networking and reaching out to people.
Don’t be shy to reach out to professionals in your industry to ask for their advice and/or help. Most of the time, they will be willing to help you out, or point you towards the right direction.
Word your requests properly, and be professional. Introduce yourself and give a brief introduction / background, and what is it that you are looking for. These professionals have their own lives and work, you can’t expect them to know straight off what you need in your life. What more – you’re asking them to help you, so make it easy for them to help you!
For instance, when I was considering to pursue a graduate program in Student Affairs, I started off by searching for potential programs. I then tried to see if there were any Malaysians who have done similar programs in the US. That led me to an article talking about a Malaysian academic who did one of the programs I was considering. Me being me, I Google-d him up, and found an email address for me to reach out to.
So I sent him an email, asking for his thoughts and opinions on someone wanting to pursue a similar career path. He was nice as well in his response, giving me some suggestions and ideas to think about.
My advice is – you need to know what is it that you don’t know, and ask the right questions.
When you are reaching out to people (most of which are strangers to you), value their time. You are asking them for help and advice, so help them to help you. Give them some information to work with, not just sending a message that says “Can you help me find a job?”
Never burn down bridges.
Try to keep in touch with old colleagues and/or classmates. Who knows, maybe some of your previous classmates would become a future partner in business? You’ll never know who you’ll meet in the future, and who will be able to help you get to a place you need to be.
Stay in contact with your professors and lecturers – they can be a great source of motivation and guidance. This is especially true for your first few years after graduation. They can help you out with providing recommendation letters – as long as (1) they know and remember who you are and (2) they are familiar with your work and how you bring yourself.
If you’ve worked part-time previously, or have done an internship or placement during your semester break, never burn down the bridges that you’ve built. The people that you met there may help to connect you to other opportunities in the future.
For example – I used to work part-time as an Admissions Representative at the Office of Admissions and Recruitment back in university. I spent about half of my college life in the office, and got to know quite a lot of the counselors and staff working in the office.
Even though I left the office in December 2016, I’m still in touch with some of the staff through Facebook. One of them even reached out to me recently about some volunteering opportunity with Malaysian students who are admitted to the university, because they knew that I was still passionate about the university and talking to students.
But why should you care about networking and connecting with people?
This is a true story that happened just last year, but started in ~2017. During my final year of undergraduate, I heard about NASPA’s Undergraduate Pre-Conference event. If you’re not familiar about NASPA (as I was back then), it’s essentially one of the big organizations for student affairs professionals.
So, they had this undergraduate pre-conference event, which is essentially a weekend-long event for students interested in pursuing a career in student affairs. I found out about it by chance, applied for a capstone award to attend it, and got accepted.
It was my first real shot at adulting, as (1) I didn’t know anyone at the conference, (2) it was purely a random decision to go to the conference, and (3) it was by choice, not forced. But it was an eye-opening experience, and I learnt a lot from it. It was just inspiring listening to these accomplished student affairs professionals talking about their profession.
NASPA also has a thing called the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which is a mentoring program for undergraduate students. As it was my final year, it was way too late for me. However, I had another friend who was also somewhat interested in student affairs. He was a year younger than me, so I recommended him to apply for the fellowship program, and he got in!
Never underestimate the power of connections.
Fast forward to early 2018, and my friend went to the same pre-conference event that I went to. He met two Malaysian academics who were also present at the conference, got talking to them about all things student affairs, and my name popped up.
Needless to say, they were interested to learn more about me. They reached out to me and invited me over for an interview for a position they had open. I did get the job, but unfortunately, due to other reasons, had to decline it for the time being.
It was still a surreal experience though, to be able to get opportunities like that because of the people that I’ve met and talked to in the past. After all, we are all somewhat connected to each other in this world. With the power of social media and the Internet, it makes it a lot easier to network and connect with one another.
The connections and networks that you make in your career and professional life can be beneficial in many ways. Not only can it open up doors to different opportunities, but it can also broaden your perspectives about the world. You can learn a lot from your networks, not just in your specific industry, but also across different industries as well.
Get a head start early on in your networking!
When you’re just starting out, it’s the best time to start building your networks. You are still new and fresh, and building your network early on can help you to learn more about different career paths. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to get a referral for a position at one of your connections’ company?
If you’re feeling shy or nervous, don’t fret! Start off small. Connect with people who you share mutual connections with. Start off by connecting with your parents’ friends, or your friends’ parents, etc. Talk to your older colleagues at work to learn more about their journey and experiences. Reach out to senior management in your company to learn more about them.
Like I said earlier, most of them will be more than happy to share their stories with you. Most people are also happy to share advice and help, but you need to be proactive in seeking these opportunities.
Be creative, be personal, and most importantly, be yourself. Don’t try to hard to be someone you’re not when you’re reaching out to people.
Until the next post, stay awesome and take care! 🙂