University Didn’t Just Teach Me, It Introduced Me To My Networking Circle
University is a transformative experience on just about every level. Before I came to university, I was feeling all the normal things that a university newbie feels. I was anxious, nervous, excited, all at once. My family were fantastic, they flew to Australia with me from China to help me settle in properly. On my first day of classes, I was suddenly overwhelmed with uncertainty. It was my very first day on campus, but I was innately aware that going to university did not automatically prepare me for life beyond graduation. What would I do?
I will never forget my first humanities class. Our lecturer talked us through how the semester would pan out, what was expected of us, how the assessments would be graded. And then, ten minutes before class ended, she said something really profound. She said that she could see in every single one of our faces that we felt lost. It was normal, she said. There was no need to be afraid of the feeling. But more than anything else, we can ace our courses all we want, achieve top marks, but if we are not willing to think outside the box and get ourselves out there, we would never be adequately equipped for life after university. Network, she said.
Looking back, I think she knew that ninety-percent of the class had no idea what she was talking about. Most of us had never heard the word ’network’, or we didn’t know enough about where to start. But she said it for the ten-percent of us that would take on her advice and use it to forge a stronger sense of our future selves as career-driven individuals. University will always be incredibly special and valuable to me for many reasons, but that class will always stick out the most for me. Over the following years, I networked any way that I possibly could. I took on unpaid internships undergoing training to fine-tune my talents and learn new skills – I still remember taking my IELTS preparation online, having that in my experience helped me gain new perspective, and confidence. I made new friends. I got to know some of my teachers.
In my last year before graduating, I was starting to notice conversations drifting through my friends that centred around what would happen after they graduated. The conversations always seemed to be the same. People were panicked, confused. “How have we gone through a full-time degree and have nothing to show for it?”. “How can we possibly be expected to get “entry level” jobs if they require past experience?”. I didn’t want to say anything, but the answer was very clearly networking while still at university.
I have made valuable connections in my time at university that have opened doors and windows for me post-graduation. I got my first job through a company that I interned with as a first-year. I just started my first business with my best friend, who I met at a careers fair. I really took it upon myself to fling myself far out of my comfort zone, and it paid off (both literally and figuratively). The best experience by far for me was getting out of my prescribed comfort zone. When I found the courage to step out of that little area, I began to flourish beyond what I initially thought was possible as a student with constant assessment on her plate.