See your network as a way to become wiser about yourself and your profession, and to understand the labour market. Through your network at uni and through other relationships, you can wise up to your skills, find out what's going on in an industry, and learn about openings on the job market.
You might have an idea about an industry, the work involved in a particular job, the culture at a workplace, or maybe the pay in a certain field. Use your network to discuss and test out the impressions you've got from a job posting. That way, you can address your conceptions and more easily evaluate if, for example, a job in a certain industry is right for you.
Your network is a kind of professional relationship. Be careful to present yourself in a proper, professional manner when sharing your positive and negative experiences with your network. Be loyal towards your workplace. You should be prepared to stand by the things you share with and say to your network. So, be sure to read the room and think about what you can — and more importantly, cannot — say.
In general, most of us are happy to help others when we can. That's the kind of approach you should take to networking. What kind of networks can you get into? Consider what you can contribute to others. Be generous and help those around you. Keep your network close by regularly contributing and acknowledging the help and knowledge you receive. You might think: "What can I contribute? I'm new to this field, and the others know so much more than I do." But you can contribute your energy, curiosity, and different perspectives. You can help to stimulate the rest of the network in reflection.
Some people who have been on the labour market longer than you have limited access to those in your year. They can be great to have in your network, since they want to be closer to younger talent. You can be an important contact point for them.
People get jobs through networking. But it's rarely a direct path to a job. To begin, consider your network as a stepping stone on the way to a job. It gives you access to knowledge, skills, and opportunities. For example, you can ask around in your network to see if anybody knows about a particular business, or you can tell your network that you're interested in a job as this or that. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your network to help you.
A rewarding professional network isn't made up of just your private friends, so you'll need to reach out. A network doesn't just build itself, either — if you don't take the initiative, nothing will happen. Networks also cannot take care of themselves. Merely have 500 contacts on LinkedIn isn't enough, but you'll come a long way if you take care of your network and invite others to connect with you.
A good network surrounds you with people who have something in common with you, so you have something to talk about; but also people who are different, so that you don't all agree on everything.