With school just around the corner, you’re probably juggling money for rent, tuition and books. The stress of these financial obligations as well as the upcoming coursework itself, make it easy to forget about why you wanted to go to school in the first place. One of the reasons you’re in school likely has to do with making a living after graduation.
That’s why it's important to start planning for a networking /professional development budget, especially if you are in your senior year. While some forms of networking are free (you don't need to pay to talk to your uncle, neighbor or friend who already has your dream job), others are not. Here are three networking streams you might want to think about budgeting for.
1. Networking events
Many professional associations and organizations hold networking events that enable you to meet with professionals who work in your field of interest. Be sure to check this website often for networking events around town, as well as the career centre at your school.
How much do these events cost? It depends. Most have a student price, ranging from free to $40 or more. Some require that you be a member of their association or organization (see below for Professional Associations). Some don’t require membership, and instead have a pricing tier for members vs. non-members. Check the event listing you are interested in for details.
2. Professional associations
Most professional associations offer students a discount to be a member of the association. The advantage to joining an association is the access it provides to working professionals whom you might want to contact for informational interviews. Many associations also offer access to exclusive job postings (i.e., postings that are not advertised elsewhere) and discounts to networking events. Joining an association may give you a head start in finding out more about the work you think you might be interested in doing after graduation.
Conferences are a great way to find out about the latest developments in your field or industry. It might be worth checking with your department to see if there is a fund or scholarship set aside to send students to a conference. You might also want to join a student association or club, as some associations have a mandate to do fundraising in order to subsidize the registration fees of students wishing to attend a professional conference.
Why should you think about networking and professional development while you’re in school? Keep in mind that you and your classmates will have presumably learned the same things in your program, and you’ll be competing for the same prospects after graduation. When you leave school, it's not only what you know and how you present yourself and your abilities, but also who you know that might make all the difference in landing that coveted job, project or client.