Walmart ImageEnactus Canada chatted with Simon De Matteo, Director, Executive Talent Management, Walmart Canada Corp. to talk about the importance of building professional relationships.

Why is it so important to build professional relationships while you are in school?

Simply, to accelerate your career. If you don’t have broad relationships, you will have no one to leverage. Being able to network and build relationships at an early stage is fundamental to building your long term career.

By building these relationships, you will become memorable and when an organisation is hiring, they will think of you. The ones who put the time into being remembered, will be remembered.

Who should students be building professional relationships with?

What you want is a small group of people that you can reach out to, like a mentoring group. To do this you need to pin point a few key people from specific organizations, or specific departments within organizations, that are appropriate for where you want to work. Don’t become a nuisance and target hundreds of organizations!  You want to be selective.

As much as you want the CEO or heads of departments, it will be very hard to get time with them. You want to aim at the Director level, they have a broader perspective on the business and sometimes have more availability.  In general, someone in Human Resources or Strategy departments have their hands in a lot of areas in the business and they can give you more insight on what’s happening in a company.

What is the best way for students to build a professional relationship with these people?

Once you know who you want to reach out to, you want to drop them a note in an email or LinkedIn message, or give them a phone call.

When you are reaching out, you don’t want to write an essay. You want to be very concise and do three main things:

  • Prepare a brief elevator pitch on yourself, including your Enactus involvement
  • State why you are reaching out to them specifically
  • Ask them for a few minutes of their time

You will find that people are very open to mentoring people and giving feedback. It’s just a matter of the student putting themselves out there.

When you do get time with them, probe them about what it’s like to work at that company or what it’s like to be in that specific industry.

Any advice on how to manage these relationships once they’re built?

Use your mentoring group as a small library; you have certain people you go to for certain things. Your touch points with them may not be weekly, or monthly, but rather whenever it needs to be. It’s not about having one person, but having a portfolio of people who can help enable your career.

Any last advice for Enactus students?

It’s better to ask than to miss out. If you don’t ask, you won’t get what you want. This is a time that you need to be serious about your career and networking is a massive part in starting it on the right footstep.

When you do get started in a company, remember it’s important to continue building relationships, building cross functional relationships out of your comfort zone is key to getting ahead.