Have you heard of the saying: “It isn’t what you know, but who you know?”, I always shrugged it off and thought how true can it be? But as I started my career, I realised that it holds much more truth than I thought possible.

A study by ABC News showed that 80% of people find work through their network. Just as significant, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed that people who land a new job through their network are more likely to receive a higher salary!

Stay Calm, Networking Is Not As Bad As You Think

Traditionally, when most people think of networking they imagine it as “selling yourself to make a good impression on others”. This is probably why most people are intimidated by the idea of it, but now is the time to change your preconceived ideas.

Networking is a process of building up acquaintances. It means getting to know them, their interests, what they do, and occasionally reaching out to them when you have an opportunity for them, or if they can help you in your career. It is a win-win relationship. In short, networking is the business term for socialising.


Building Your Network As An International Student 

  1. Get to know your professors
    Your professors are much better connected than you think. Sit in the front seats, greet them when they enter the lecture hall and participate in class. This will help get you noticed and build a rapport with them. A good reference from a professor will always count in your favour!

  2. Join a student organization
    Schools always have a large variety of student organisations that you can choose from. Signing up to one of these is a great way to socialize with other. Being able to build your way up to becoming part of the organizing committee will skyrocket your networking opportunities and look great on your CV!

  3. Talk to students in your class
    Is your professor running late? Put your phone down and talk to the students around you. Find out what their interests and ask them about their career aspirations. This is a great opportunity to make new friends, especially since you already have common ground. Who knows, this might turn into a useful contact in the future or, if you are lucky, a life long friendship. So put yourself out there in class today and say “hi” to someone new.

  4. Look at your personal network
    I have been fortunate enough to meet with CEO’s, COO’s and GM’s by utilising my network. Find out what your friends parents do and ask if you can meet them for coffee. One of my colleagues landed a summer internship at my company because her friends’ mother is the owner of the company!

  5. Work for your student newspaper
    You might not want to become a journalist, but you will always benefit from being a good writer. Working for the school newspaper means that you will get to meet students from other faculties that you otherwise might not engage with.

  6. Reach out to Alumni
    Contact your university's career office, or your lecturer, and ask them if they can help you connect with alumni from your school. LinkedIn is also a great platform to connect with alumni and build your network.

  7. Volunteer to work for free
    Not only is this a great way to gain work experience, but you will also meet people that you otherwise might not have had the opportunity to connect with. This is your opportunity to show people what you are made of and it might land you a job.

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Remember This While Building Your Network

It is always important to maintain your network. Give them a call every now and then or send them a message just to check in and find out how things are going. It is always a great touch if you remember details about events in their life or things that they are interested in.

I received great advice from my mentors once, it is a sign of respect to the other person in your network when you show up looking professional. Make sure that you are well groomed, even if it is just an informal coffee at Starbucks.

It’s important to choose your network wisely and be mindful of who you associate yourself with. Avoid associating with people who have a bad reputation because their bad habits might be made to reflect on you.

Very few people realise that your network is a very important asset to have. For some industries, you are more likely to be called for an interview if you have a good network. One of the best times to start building your network and practising your networking skills is while you are at studying. Remember to take a break from your studies and use the time to have fun and get to know new people.

If you are interested about life as an international student, check out our blogs!

About the AuthorLizan Gray, is currently an editorial assistant for an online company in Dubai. An adventurer at heart, she is originally from South Africa and busy finishing her degree in Business Administration.