by Madison Ross, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and Recent Graduate, B.Sc. Honours Food Science Degree (Co-op), University of Guelph
What is networking? And why is it a valuable tool to have in your professional artillery? The term “networking” refers to a system of connections formed by individuals who share a common interest. Through the transfer of knowledge and ideas, business professionals can form essential ties and crucial connections. There are a plethora of networking opportunities available to people at all stages of their careers and getting started as early as possible with building great networks is the focus of this blog. Thanks to the internet, networking has never been easier. Everything from networking advice to business etiquette to LinkedIn how-to and much more can be made available to you at the touch of a button.
LinkedIn is one way you can grow your professional network and is an excellent tool to help you keep track of the people you meet and how their careers develop and evolve over time; however, finding ways to meet people face-to-face and get out from behind your computer can be much more effective and successful when it comes to building great networks. To improve your networking results, consider taking up a new hobby such as sports including golf, cycling, squash, hockey, yoga, sailing, tennis, etc. If you are willing to put in the time and have the budget golf would be a great skill to have for anyone interested in building a career in the business community. It is a game that has been associated with business networking for many generations! Alternatively, if you already play sports or are not the athletic type, consider joining groups or clubs that align with your areas of interest.
During my time at University, I grew my network by joining the Food Science Club, participating in College Royal, going to the Institute of Food Technology (IFT) Food Expo convention, and joining a recreational women’s hockey league.
One of the first things I did during the start of my first year was join the food science club, where avid foodies would meet biweekly to discuss various food science topics, work opportunities and other areas of common interest. This club provided me with several networking opportunities since a majority of the other food science students were in the co-op program. Through the food science club, I learned about an annual spring tradition at the University called “College Royal”. It provides an opportunity for current undergrads to setup elaborate displays and games to gain the interest of the public, to teach, engage, and excite guests about their majors. Overall, it was a great place to volunteer because you never knew who was going to walk through the doors, what questions you were going to get asked, or who you were going to meet.
Another great networking opportunity I had at University was the IFT Food Expo. It is an event that brings together more than 1000 food employers and allows food industry professionals and food science students to interact, learn and experience the most forefront food innovations in ingredients, equipment, packaging, processing, etc. As a food science student, I always saw it as a way to grow my professional network, and enhance my knowledge about the industry I wanted to start a career in.
To grow your professional network, the best thing you can do is to reinvigorate those extracurricular activities you enjoyed when you were younger and consider joining/picking-up new hobbies such as yoga, platies, gardening, cooking. At the end of the day, you want to invest in a hobby because you never know what opportunity will come knocking at your door. Good luck building your networks!