Networking: Why it's important and how can it help you!

Making the connections you need to succeed

Being a Waterloo student comes with a number of perks — an innovative campus, a great roster of professors and advisors, active student societies that organize fun events (think Pi day and paint nights), and so much more.

However, one of the coolest things about being a Waterloo student are all the networking opportunities. 

Networking with industry professionals while still a student has the potential to open up so many doors for your future. It gives you the chance to make a long-lasting impression on possible employers before you even start the job application process, whether it’s for a co-op job or full-time position after graduation. 

As a student myself, I have used some of these opportunities and have seen people around me do the same and reap those benefits as well.

2 men in suits having a conversation.

Networking events

These are essentially the holy grail of networking opportunities. The event consists of employers from different companies coming to campus to talk about their company and the different career opportunities within their organization.

It’s a good way to learn about all the options out there for you as a student while also getting you on the radar of these companies. These events are a personal favourite of mine because not only are they fun, but they’re also an amazing way to meet new people and find incredible opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. 

In my first year, we had companies such as PwC, Deloitte, EY, and BDO come visit (among many others), and it was so cool to talk to partners in these big firms while being a first-year student!

At a Deloitte networking event one time, my friend started talking to one of the recruiters and they ended up bonding over their mutual love of travelling and Lord of the Drinks. A week later, the recruiter reached out to him and invited him for a coffee day! In the weeks and months that followed, the recruiter was consistently there to provide support by critiquing his résumé and giving him interview tips, which ultimately helped him land his first co-op at Deloitte!

Conferences and case competitions

Participating in business conferences and case competitions is something that not only adds to your résumé but also sets the stage for some great networking opportunities. How? Well, at university conferences, the judges tend to be industry professionals. So, it’s the perfect chance to wow them with your skills and start making a name for yourself!

One of my friends attended a case competition where the judges (who happened to be partners from Deloitte) were blown away by one of the presentations because it demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking that none of the judges had considered. They were so impressed with the four students (from Waterloo, of course), they actually invited them to the downtown Toronto office to get a feel for what working at Deloitte is like. What a cool opportunity!

She was able to make connections with employees from various companies who ended up being great resources

Student clubs

Clubs are a great way to get to know your peers on campus, but it can also be an opportunity to meet industry professionals! One of my friends was the finance director for Waterloo's chapter of DECA (a club for business leadership development). As a part of this position, she had to reach out to companies to talk about sponsorship opportunities. In the end, she was able to make connections with employees from various companies who ended up being great resources by helping her craft her résumé and giving her interview tips!

2 students shaking hands.

Mentorship programs

There are so many different ways to find a mentor at Waterloo. There are also a ton of different types of mentors you can have, including peer mentors. These various mentorship programs are often offered by the academic faculties, some programs, residences, and even Campus Wellness, depending on what you’re looking for.

One of the programs I’m personally familiar with is Adopt-a-co-op, which is run by the Accounting and Finance Student Association (AFSA). First-year students are paired with upper-year students to help them tackle the ins and outs of the co-op process. This also allows younger students to leverage and build upon the network that the mentor has established!

While I personally wasn’t a part of this program, I know a number of people that were, and everyone had a similar, positive experience — you get tried-and-tested tips and tricks from those who know what you’re going through and have learned from their own set of mistakes.

Professors

This is an old one but still a good one! Professors can often be underrated when it comes to networking, but they really can provide great opportunities. One of my friends made a point of talking to his senior research project supervisor after class, and now, his supervisor has invited him to London, U.K. on an educational, all-expenses-paid trip!

Networking can really end up helping you land a co-op job or even a full-time position after university.

All in all, networking can sometimes seem a little intimidating, but it’s a great way to get your name out there! If you take it seriously, networking can really end up helping you land a co-op job or even a full-time position after university.

A networking connection can help you distinguish yourself from the hundreds of other people who applied to the same job that you did. And even if it doesn’t lead to your dream job right after graduation, it will inevitably allow you to have meaningful conversations with industry professionals and help you gain insider information about the working world. So yes, it may be a little intimidating, but in the end, you’ll be glad you took the plunge!