Maximise The Experience

Network for success

Your work experience is an opportunity to build your professional network. The relationships you build are almost as important as what you will learn on the job. The people you meet during your experience could end up being a future boss, contact for a role, or a glowing reference that could help you get your next experience or graduate role!

Throughout your experience you may participate in teams, meetings, events and workshops/training, which will provide you with the opportunity to develop relationships and potentially find a mentor. Networking doesn’t come easily to everyone, and you need to practice to gain confidence. Being good at your job isn’t enough when you are competing against many other talented candidates. You need to learn how to network effectively to stand out. Many people find networking scary, but it is simply relationship building and starts by having a simple conversation with people.

Tips on networking during your work experience

Start early

Introduce yourself to the people around you, even if they aren’t in your team or department. If you show interest in other people and their work, they tend to be receptive – most people enjoy talking about themselves, or at least about their work!  If you are feeling nervous about this, start with getting to know other interns, new staff, or those similar to your age. The more staff you get along with, the more likely you will be seen as a great ‘fit’ for the company.

Research the people you want to connect with

Use LinkedIn and Facebook to research the people you are working with. You can add them on LinkedIn, but include a note to your invitation to explain who you are. Do not add them on Facebook until you’ve really gotten to know them well and feel it would be appropriate. Viewing their profiles will help you to learn things you have in common. Find out some unique things about them, their interests, career journey, achievements, and skills. Once you find something you have in common (maybe they studied at JCU) or there is something they have done that interests you, you have a conversation starter!

Talk about your future plans

Ask about future jobs as you approach the end of your experience. Being flexible and open-minded is important, but if there is a specific area you are interested in then let your manager know. If your supervisor doesn’t have a job for you now, they will have tips on how to apply when the time comes, or may suggest another area of the organisation they know is going to be hiring.

Find a mentor

A good mentor can guide you through your work experience, help you to develop your skills and connect you with professional networks and learning opportunities. You could make a beeline for the person you think you could learn the most from, or you could approach someone that you connected well with during your networking. Having a good mentor will make your transition from student to employee much easier and a lot less stressful.

Why become a mentee?

  • Personalise your professional development
  • Target your areas for career development and professional growth
  • Get help transitioning from studying to the workplace
  • Identify your areas of interest
  • Develop your communication skills
  • Help you set goals
  • Get job application and interview tips
  • Build your professional networks

Before you ask someone to be your mentor, decide on what you want from them. Do you want to ask them for advice about your work experience project(s), help to develop particular skills, or learn more about specialities relevant to their field of expertise?

Note: Being a mentor does require their time and effort, so if they decline, accept this gracefully.  You may consider asking if they have recommendations for another mentor.

What to do next

  • Set up short, regular meetings over an agreed period.
  • Agree on the best way(s) to communicate (in person, phone, email, LinkedIn)
  • Establish your goals and share those with your mentor.
  • Go to your meetings with an agenda and a list of specific questions that you would like to ask. Being well prepared shows respect for their time and goodwill.
  • Reflect on what went well and what you would do different next time.

Here are some example questions that you may ask your mentor:

  • What are the main skills I need to acquire to be successful in XYZ?
  • How did you use X skill to help you with Y goal?
  • What was the greatest challenge you faced when you first started in your field?
  • I am trying to meet person A, how can I approach him/her?
  • How did you set yourself apart from others who wanted the same job?
  • Did you have an internship when you first started your career? What was one of the most important things you learned?

Being a good mentee

Characteristics of a successful mentee:

  • Responsible – you are responsible for your own learning, and your mentor will give you tools and guidance.
  • Respectful – respect your mentors advice and opinions. Remember, a mentor is a volunteer, so be respectful of their time.
  • Honest – if you hold back, your mentor won’t have the full picture. Be honest about your thoughts, what you need help with, and be open to feedback.
  • Appreciation – show your mentor appreciation and formally express your thanks (handwritten note/card, small gift, or endorse them on LinkedIn).

Stay in touch and thank them for the opportunity

At the end of your work experience, say goodbye and thank you to each person you’ve met (in person if possible). Leave a lasting impression and send an email or handwritten letter/card to your supervisor, and anyone that helped you. Include your contact details, thank them and let them know what you learned from them and how they impacted on your life and future career. If your experience went well, consider asking your supervisor to be a referee.

Before you go, make a list of the names/email addresses of the key people you have met, and invite those people into your LinkedIn network. This way if they change jobs or companies, you’ll be able to congratulate them and keep in touch.

When you do follow up with them, make sure that you don’t make a request in your first follow-up. Keep it simple and friendly. Keeping in touch will help you to remain on their radar when an opportunity opens up. If you see a job opening in the same organisation, reach out before you apply as your contacts may be able to put in a good word for you or give you tips on your written application.

Additional Resources

To view this video, login to LinkedIn Learning through the JCU website and then search for ‘Connecting with a Mentor'.