Work Experience & the Art of Getting Connected

You may have applied to job adverts for summer internships or work experience, but are you accessing all opportunities? Not every job is advertised by an employer so it is important to develop your skills in getting connected – making contacts with professionals in your area of interest so that:

  • you can find out more about the sector/occupation
  • show your enthusiasm for the industry
  • make yourself known to people who could help you
  • create opportunities for work experience
  • make a good impression so you hear about future opportunities.

iStock_000013296501Small Network of people

Step 1: Who do you already know that can help?

Everyone can find ways to create and develop a ‘network’ of contacts. You already have done this informally on your course, through University societies, family and friends. Start with what you know and make a list or if you prefer, a spider diagram of everyone you know.  Include work and volunteering colleagues, lecturers, careers staff. Friends of your parents. Anyone. Think laterally and be creative.

  • Do any of them work in your area of interest?
  • Do any of them know someone who works in your area of interest?

This makes it important to let everyone know what you are looking for, what sector/occupation you want to find out about and get work experience in. That way if they do know someone, or have a chance encounter with someone who might be a good contact (it happens more often than you think), they could help you.

Step 2: Making contact

How well you know the contact may dictate how you approach them and ask them for advice. Whether you know your contact well through family, informally, or through another way as with previous college lecturers or work contacts,  approach them for information and advice – about the industry, how to gain work experience, how to find out about opportunities. Asking for information and advice first is usually better than asking for a job as it opens more doors. Remember, this is only step 2.

If you are unsure how to develop your network, start with the people you know well first – your ‘warm’ contacts – to build your confidence. Always think of developing your network of contacts for the long term. It is not just for this summer’s internships.

For contacts you know less well, contact them in writing first mentioning the person who recommended you speak to them. Ask for a few minutes of their time and outline what you were hoping they could help you with. If they are happy to do this, arrange a meeting/telephone call/skype chat to follow up. Prepare good questions, present yourself professionally and thank them for their time! Give them a copy of your CV too (see our Networking guide for more info and advice).

Step 3: Getting work experience

If the meeting/call goes well and you have impressed them with your enthusiasm, toward the end ask about how you should go about getting experience in the sector/occupation. Does their organisation ever offer work experience, internships or placements? Who would you need to speak to about this and would they mind putting you in touch?

What do you have available as University of Manchester students?

  • Social media including LinkedIn

Social media as you know can be helpful to develop contacts whether this be through Facebook, Twitter, email/ discussion forums but also LinkedIn, which can be a great networking tool for professionals:

  • finding groups of interest to share discussion on industry interests,
  • finding other professionals in your field to ‘link with’
  • searching for jobs in your sector.

The more time you invest in developing your profile and networking through this route, the more fruitful it can be. See the advice on our website for how to use social media for career networking.  

  • Visiting contacts organisations abroad and making contacts as a Global Graduate

iStock_000008140633Medium NetworkingGlobal Graduates is an opportunity for 5 students to visit the cities of Dubai, Hong Kong, New York city and Singapore this summer between 19 -23rd August.  As part of the expectations of this role, each student will visit a range of organisations and contacts to learn more about their businesses and roles and city they visit.  Therefore a great opportunity to practice and develop your ability to network and make professional contacts. Check out the full details of what Global Graduates will involve and how to apply for this position. Apply quick as the closing date is Friday 17th May!

  • Making contacts with University of Manchester Alumni

The University of Manchester Alumni Association can provide some useful events with alumni of the university and this can be a great opportunity to network and develop your professional contacts in an area of interest through different events. Events might take place in your School, or you can join Manchester alumni groups on LinkedIn.

  • Making contact with an online mentor

Professionals in many sectors/occupations offer their time as a mentor through the Careers Service. You can ask them career questions by logging into CareersLink and searching on the Mentor tab.

  • Useful workshops and events

There are sometimes ‘networking’ events by Careers staff and employers throughout the year, login to CareersLink to register and find out more. For example, there is the following coming up in June:

Get smart – Using Social Media for effective job hunting and networking

You may also want to look at our information on Networking in our Finding Work section, as well as also our Networking starting point guide.

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