Networking is a word that gets bashed around a lot and everyone talks about how important it can be. Not to jump on the band wagon but it’s true! We meet thousands of students every year and we try to instil the importance of having excellent communication skills and why these are crucial when networking. We always tell students to embrace networking and to accept that it’s a way of life.
Building networks between yourself and professionals is becoming increasingly crucial when it comes to getting a job. Gone are the days where you could waltz out of school, college or university and land yourself your dream job! Employers are looking for candidates who know what they are letting themselves in for and those students who have relevant work experience under their belt.
Networking can help on both fronts. Once you’ve mastered the art of networking, you will see your professional network grow, and your contacts could help with learning about a particular job and company, be your go-to person (or mentor) for advice or enable you to secure that all-important work experience.
It can be a daunting task, but we’ve got some tips on how to tackle those tricky networking situations…
- Your mum’s friend’s dad’s cousin boss could be useful! Think of all the people you know. We are sure that these people will be working in a whole host of jobs that could be of interest to you. Strike up a conversation and see what happens. If they aren’t the right person, they might know some who is.
- Making a positive first impression. When someone new walks into a room, the brain makes an average of 27 different judgements about that person, so making a positive first impression can significantly change the outcome of your conversations. A strong handshake, good eye contact and a friendly smile can go a long way.
- Have a concise and confident introduction where you talk about who you are, what you are currently doing, what brings you to the event, or what you are hoping to do in the future. This sets the scene and allows them to ask follow-up questions.
- #banter. Building rapport is very important in networking as it helps create a more meaningful conversation. It’s not all about you, so ask questions and be inquisitive. The person you talk to might not be directly useful to you, but they might be able to introduce you to those who are.
- Contact information. So you’ve mastered your introduction, you’ve made a great first impression and you’ve had an excellent conversation. The next part is making sure you leave the conversation with a business card so you can make contact after the event is over.
- Leaving a conversation. When a conversation comes to an end and you’ve got nothing else to talk about, confidently thank them for their time; say how great your conversation was and tell them that you will be in touch soon. Simple.
- Be considerate. If you are attending a networking event where there are more students than professionals, remember to be considerate of your peers by inviting them to join conversations. It will make you look great and show that you are a considerate individual.
- Following up. Your pockets are full of business cards and you have had some great conversations. Now you need to think about how you are going to build on these. You could add people on LinkedIn by sending a personalised message, or write an email thanking them for their time and asking for further advice or maybe arrange to meet over coffee. But be sure to only do this with people you had a genuinely positive conversation with.
- Every opportunity is a networking opportunity. University fairs, open days, insight days, career events…the list is endless. It might not necessarily say that you will be networking, but you should be prepared to have positive conversations, look for opportunities to build your networks and collect those contact details.
- Practice makes perfect. This is definitely the case with networking. The more you do it, the more confident you will become and it will definitely start to feel more natural. We know of plenty of experienced professionals who don’t enjoy networking but it’s best to accept that it’s part of life by embracing it and having a positive outlook. You might be a conversation away from landing yourself a job, work placement or more!