“Wow, you’re only in first year? It’s so great that you’re networking early on”, was the common response I got from recruiters when I mentioned I was a first-year Telfer student, attending Telfer Accounting Club’s wine and cheese in my first weeks of school.
I’ve done a lot of networking. When I was a first-year accounting student, I began attending networking events within my first few weeks of school during the height of Co-op recruiting season. I recall knowing no one, showing up alone and lost; however, being driven out of my comfort zone made me develop new skills and a boldness that is so important when attending networking events. Here are some of the pros to networking early on in your university career.
Understanding your program
When you attend networking events, you get to meet a myriad of people working in your field of study. You have a chance to talk to them about their work: what they enjoy, how the hours are, the various pros and cons of the job, and the expectations placed on an employee in that position. If you’re still unsure about your program or whether you’ll enjoy it, it’s a good place to hear first-hand what a position in your field will be like.
When I first started attending networking events in the first year, it was definitely nerve wracking. However, the more you practise the art of the casual slide-in to a group conversation or exiting a conversation tactfully when it’s been going on for too long, the better you get. As a third year attending networking events during Co-op recruiting season, even though it was arguably my most important recruiting season (for my first Co-op), I was never nervous attending the events. I had attended so many events beforehand that I was comfortable meeting new people and the recruiters. One thing that’s important to remember when you’re networking is that the people you’re talking to are just normal people, and were once students as well! Don’t be too intimidated and just be yourself.
Meeting new people
Evidently, the point of networking is to meet new people! When you go to networking events, you’ll most likely see the same students around. It can be a great opportunity to meet other people in your program.
Discovering what you like and what you don’t
After doing recruiting season again in the second year, I really got to know what various companies (especially in accounting) were like based on the people I met. I was able to be more informed and comfortable about my decision for whether to go with a big 4 firm or not when my actual third year Co-op recruiting season came around. Once I knew who I did (and who I didn’t) want to work for, I made myself known on multiple occasions to the people I really needed to meet to reach my goals, and made more purposeful relationships.
I hope all my points about networking early will encourage you to step out earlier on in your career to meet new people! Remember: practice makes perfect! It doesn’t have to be every event available to you, but even just one more event gives you that much more practice.