Kirk Zieser, MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance shares his top tips for building your network and making connections that last, before your first day at Imperial College Business School.
This time last year, I was full of curiosity – curiosity that teetered between anxiety and excitement. With less than one month before my programme, MSc Climate Change, Management, and Finance, was due to begin, I was preoccupied with one of two thoughts. It was always either…
Will I make friends at Imperial? Will I be able to build professional and support networks in a new city, country, and continent?
How in the world will I be able to keep my suitcases under the weight limit?
Although packing for your upcoming move to London may be a challenge, building your network doesn’t have to be. Take a few proactive steps and you’ll be counting those connections in no time.
"I assure you: you will build strong connections. You will create a robust professional network. And most importantly, you will make friends at Imperial who cheer for you to achieve your professional goals and support you through all your ups and downs. "
Unibuddy: find your community
When you received your offer to attend Imperial College Business School (hooray!), you should have also received an invite to join Unibuddy Community. Through Unibuddy, you can join your programme’s official group and meet incoming students from across the Business School. This is a great first way to get to know other students and lay the groundwork for your network.
LinkedIn: your built-in best friend
If you haven’t already discovered the joys of the corporate world’s favourite social media site, you’re in for a treat! LinkedIn is your one-stop shop to build a CV, make connections, and watch your network blossom into a fully formed web that can help you land that dream internship or make a first introduction. Regardless of your LinkedIn level – from “I still need to download the app” to “LinkedIn is literally my home screen” – the Business School will provide a wealth of resources and workshops at the start of the year to help you hone your profile into a masterpiece you’ll be proud to link in your email signature.
The best things you can do right now are:
If you haven’t already, go create your LinkedIn account. It’s okay if it remains pretty basic for the time being – you’ll have the chance to improve it later.
Remember all those students you just met through Unibuddy Community? Search them on LinkedIn and request to connect!
Your master’s cohort is an excellent place to start building your network. All your soon-to-be classmates are just as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them, so don’t hesitate to send those “connect” requests and start the conversation!
As you search for jobs and people, LinkedIn will indicate if any fellow Imperial alumni work at a particular company, or if you have any connections in common. Having a shared academic background or connection makes for a great icebreaker, so if you see someone you’d like to connect with, you can always add a note in your connection request to introduce yourself! (Hint: if you don’t see the option to “Connect”, click “More”, then “Connect”, then “Add a note”. You’ll be limited to 300 characters, so use them wisely!
WhatsApp: from connections to friends
LinkedIn messaging is great for professional conversations, but for more informal chats (including crowdsourcing potential flatmates), WhatsApp has your back. In my cohort, one person took the initiative to create a WhatsApp group chat; he then sent a joining link to our LinkedIn group feed, and voilà! – the “MSc CCMF 2022-2023” group chat was born (feel free to think of a more creative name for your cohort’s chat). This chat continues to buzz with notifications regularly – everything from coordinating logistics for get-togethers to asking, “when is that project due again?”
While LinkedIn is busy establishing your professional connections, WhatsApp texts help grow your personal support network as you bond with friends over shared memes and funny gifs. Make no mistake: these friendships double as powerful and lasting professional connections, especially once we fast forward to this time next year and you and your friends prepare to (re)enter the working world.
"Your master’s cohort is an excellent place to start building your network. All your soon-to-be classmates are just as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them, so don’t hesitate to send those “connect” requests and start the conversation!"
Start with what you know
Moving to London can be daunting – it certainly was for me. Coming from the US, I didn’t know anyone on this side of the Atlantic and was nervous about building my professional network, especially since I realised how it’s often your connections at a company, not a cover letter, that help your job application really stand out. Throughout the year, Imperial College Business School will bring in several guest speakers that can form the core of your UK professional network. But if you’re particularly eager to start your network, you may be surprised by who your current contacts know. For example, when I told a friend in the US I was going to Imperial, she shared she has a long-time colleague working in sustainability consulting in the UK. She put the two of us in touch, and conversation flowed from there. Just like that, I had my first connection.
Trust the process
Although your first impression of future classmates may be made through LinkedIn’s “connect” button, it’s only a matter of weeks until you meet the real people behind those online CVs. During the first few days, it’s possible you’ll struggle to remember everyone’s name. But over the course of the year, friendships will emerge, and for decades to come, when you’re successfully running your business that improves the world, those friendships will continue and will remain the bedrock of your professional network in London and around the world.
Keep in mind what matters is the quality, not quantity, of your connections. Just as spiders don’t race each other to build their webs, don’t worry if it takes a little longer to build yours.
I assure you: you will build strong connections. You will create a robust professional network. And most importantly, you will make friends at Imperial who cheer for you to achieve your professional goals and support you through all your ups and downs.
I hope my advice helps quell at least a couple of your back-to-school nerves. If you’re still unsure about how to make that first connection, add me on LinkedIn here. There, that’s one! You’ve taken the first step, now it’s time to embark on your journey.