Finding employment using your geography degree requires networking. Very few jobs are won solely by applying in response to an ad. It happens, but less often you might think. Employers consistently see networking, both in person and on-line, as the best strategy for finding future employees.
1) Why is Networking Important?
For several reasons, including:
- Connecting with Potential Colleagues. In tight labour markets like that of the lower mainland, who you know counts. And in some industries, it counts even more--including in environmental practice, business, and consulting.
- Mentorship. Professional contacts can potentially serve as excellent sources for advice and mentorship.
- The "Inside Scoop". Through networking, it's possible to connect with others who know more about what particular employers are looking for, when they may be hiring again, and what the work entails.
- Building your soft skills. While you're in school, you'll spend a lot of time developing what are called 'soft skills'. These are the incredibly important abilities that individuals bring to a workplace: collaboration, creativity, patience, humour, timeliness, initiative, etc. Networking helps you develop some of these skills even further. Perhaps the most critical skill you pick up is the ability to present yourself confidentally when talking with other professionals.
2) What is Involved in Networking?
Networking takes multiple forms. On-line professional networking takes place through e-mail and social media sites, namely LinkedIn. Consider your LinkedIn profile as a requirement, not an option, in your job search. Once you've created your account, start building connections with people you meet at conferences, outreach events, classes, or your workplace. Do not just connect with your professors. Check out these helpful tips for how to have the greatest impact using your LinkedIn account:
Don't be shy about sending an email to someone in an organization for whom you would like to work. Must people are inundated with email, so keep yours short and to the point. The email may be someone who holds a role similar to that which you would like to have. Or it could be someone in a position of authority who can comment on the demands of the workplace. Ask for a meeting, either at their place of work or over coffee at a location near their offices. If it makes sense to do so, consider as well setting up a job shadow for a few hours.
Face-to-Face networking is equally important. This can happen in just about any professional forum--a conference, a public engagement event, an open house, or an information session. Some organizations also hold networking events for professionals in their field. Some types of events can be pricey, but many offer deep students discounts. This is even more of a reason to begin the networking process while you're still in school. Bring business cards, and be ready to ask if you could request a connection via LinkedIn.
If you find even the prospect of attending an event like these nerve-wracking, know that you're not alone. Lots of students and professionals share similar fears and discomfort. Some people will only attend if they go with a friend. That can be helpful, but the key to success is to make new connections--and not just spend most of the time talking with people you already know! Check out these helpful tips from TalentEgg on attending a networking event on your own.
Refer to Step 5: Building Your Profile for more information on how to make the best and lasting impressions with new professional connections.
3) Where Do I Go to Begin Networking?
Multiple organizations host regional and national networking events, or provide resources to help students connect with professionals. Among these:
In addition, GATE also organizes networking events for students and alumni in planning (November) and environmental careers (March), and the UFV Career Centre organizes the Career Fair annually. Keep on top of these events by following GATE social media.