As a new Australian visa holder, the thought of making friends – let alone professional networking – may be daunting. It is for this reason that so many new visa holders find it difficult to integrate with their new professional environments. And if you hold an employer-nominated visa, such as the Subclass 187 visa, you may not see the point in networking at all.
However, professional networking is not only important for your career; it’s a skill that can be used to combat other issues commonly faced by new visa holders, such as culture shock, loneliness and communication barriers. In today’s blog, we are exploring some other reasons why networking is important for you, and seven ways you can begin to network – starting today.
Why you should network, even if you have a job
Some visas, such as the Subclass 187 visa, require an employer to nominate you before you can acquire the visa. If this is the case for your new Australian visa, then you may be wondering why exactly you need to network if you’ve already found a job.
In reality, networking is about more than just finding a job. It is about problem solving, learning and even forming friendships. As a new Australian visa holder, it is very likely that you will need to do all three of these things during your stay. An article in the Huffington Post sums it up: “Networking is a lifestyle. It should really have no on and off switch.”
So, what are the other reasons you should network in Australia (besides getting a job)? Well:
- Networking helps you learn new things about your industry, or new ways of thinking about how you do your job. This can help improve the quality of your work.
- Networking improves your communication skills. As a new Australian visa holder, the best way to overcome communication challenges is to face them! By networking, you improve your professional speaking skills, which can help in your career negotiations and/or your current job.
- Networking helps to attract clients and even new friends. Both these relationships are equally as valuable.
7 ways to network
#1: Build a list of those you already know
You should list any friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances you know that are located in your new area of Australia. Even if they are located in a different state, it’s still worth connecting on LinkedIn or even Facebook. Growing your online network is one of the best ways to expand the connections you have, and starting with the people you know is easy! This will give you a good base of connections to expand from.
#2: Keep in touch with your network
Don’t stop reaching out after your friend or acquaintance has accepted your invitation to connect. Numbers don’t do much if you don’t utilise them! Really, your next aim should be actually connecting with that person. You can send them an email or message them through the social network. If the person is an acquaintance or someone you have only spoken to a few times, you can remind them where you met them to begin the conversation. Following up is the key to maintaining your network.
You might also want to connect with strangers who are local professionals in the same industry as yourself. A great tip you can use when connecting with strangers on LinkedIn is to customise your invitation message. Try to avoid the automatic default message, and instead, address the person by name. Introduce yourself by name as well, and include one (or all) of the following:
- What your job is/what field you’re interested in
- What you study
- Why you wanted to connect with them
You could even be candid and explain how you’re new to Australia and you’re interested in connecting with local professionals in your industry. In any case, by personalising the message, you’re making a good (and professional) first impression.
#3: Improve your digital presence
Updating your social media is a simple but effective way to network in a new country. Take a good look at your LinkedIn, for example. Have you updated your location and job details? How about joining groups or liking pages of companies in your area? These small changes are easy enough, but can give people in your area a reason to connect with you.
Another way you can improve your digital presence is by creating a personal website. For example, if you are a web designer, you’ll want to ensure that you design a user-friendly, good-looking website that promotes your services to potential clients and/or employers. If you are a writer or social media specialist, having a blog that you update regularly shows that you are familiar with self-publishing content in the modern digital landscape. These are great ways to show that you know what you’re doing, rather than just saying it on LinkedIn.
In some cases, creating a personal website will not really suit your brand or career. For instance, it doesn’t quite make sense for someone in HR to have a personal website, since all the information about what they do can already be conveyed through sites like LinkedIn. If you don’t believe you will necessarily benefit from a personal website, then focus your energy on staying active on LinkedIn and other social media sites instead.
#4: Volunteer where you can
Volunteer jobs not only looks great on your resume and online profiles – they are a really valuable resource for networking, too. These are some benefits of volunteering:
- You get work experience in that field
- It’s a good way to involve yourself in that industry’s community
- You can connect online with any others who are also volunteering
- It can lead to more opportunities, such as networking events
At the same time, volunteering alongside a full time job can be overwhelming. To avoid feeling burned out, you should try to stick to volunteering for things that you see yourself benefiting from. These are some things to consider before you volunteer for a job:
- Does it apply to your career or something you’re interested in?
- How much time do you have to spend on volunteering?
- Do the organisation’s values match with your own?
#5: Reach out for opportunities
We’ve all heard the advice that we can’t wait for opportunities to chase us, and that we have to chase them. And it’s true! Don’t allow the fact that a company is dauntingly large and reputable discourage you from shooting an email to someone who works there, just in case. You never know what might happen when you reach out; the more times you cast the line, the greater your chance of success.
#6: Make friends and join communities
As we’ve mentioned before, making friends is actually a form of networking. Plus, making friends can really help you settle in a new country and make you feel at ease with your new home.
Here are some ways you may consider making friends in a new country:
- Get locally involved with what you’re interested in. For example, if you are an enthusiastic reader or a movie buff, why not join clubs that are created by like-minded people? Fitness classes are a good way to socialise with locals, too. If you are religious, perhaps start attending your local church or mosque. All these activities will help to immerse you in a like-minded community.
- Join groups that are dedicated to new Australian visa holders. Often, these kinds of groups are on Facebook or other social media sites. These groups can be really helpful for sharing information about local life. For example, the people in the group may initiate conversations about customs that are different to the ones back home, or even the best local restaurants. Alternatively, research if there are any new Australian visa holders that have blogs. Maybe they can share firsthand advice – why not reach out to them?
- Attend workshops or career-related classes. Not only will these help to develop your skills, but you’re also likely to meet people that are studying the same things you are, or working in the same field. You can connect online to these people later, and your network will grow from there.
#7: Research networking events
It might sound obvious, but networking events are one of the best places to network, especially if the event is tailored to your career. These are our top tips for approaching a networking event:
- Don’t hand your business card out to everyone. Focus on having conversations that people will remember, and only hand out your card if they ask how to contact you further (or if they give you theirs first).
- Ask questions. Aim to focus the conversation on the person with whom you’re speaking. Use this information to follow up with them later.
- Don’t be afraid to join a conversation, as long as you aren’t interrupting. Wait for a gap in the conversation, then introduce yourself! A three-person conversation is a lot less daunting than a one-on-one conversation, too.
Need a 187 visa?
If you need to get in touch with a local immigration lawyer for your visa, AHWC Immigration Law should be your first port of call. Our team of lawyers can help with your application, whether it’s the 187 visa or the family and parent visas. Our offices are based in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, so it’s easy to get in touch with us. Simply call us on 1300 887 818, or if you’re calling from overseas, contact us on +613 9573 5200. Let us handle your visa application with ease!