Networking, that fancy word that we use for having a conversation and getting to know someone, heard of it? Networking is often a word that is over used and quite simply gets too much emphasis put on it. However, it is an important part of professional life after university and during for that matter. Therefore, it’s pretty important that we know how to do it and what are the best ways to build up a network of contacts. So, let’s get started!
The rules of networking
In order to be successful at networking you need to follow four precise rules. Networking can be online or in person so you may need to change and adapt these rules depending on the scenario.
You must present yourself well, this does not always mean a suit, however nor does it mean you can’t wear your workout gear. You have to match the occasion, if you are going to a networking event that is centred around the corporate world, then it would make sense to dress appropriately in a suit or smart attire. However, if you event is centred around fitness and it is suggested that activewear is suitably, then follow accordingly. Dressing appropriately will instantly make you more approachable.
Number 2 is to be confident and be engaged, at networking events you get nowhere if you are not willing to engage with others. Following rule number 1 will help this exponentially, looking good, makes you feel confident.
Rule number 3, know your crowd, you must do your research about who the type of people are most likely to be there, what companies have an interest in the event and what are the general important topics that are swirling around in the world at the moment. This is a great first conversation starter. After your introduction of course! Although it may sound a bit nosey to do so, a great way to get a feel for the event beforehand is to check out if the event is on LinkedIn and see who is interested. This way you can take a look at the companies attending and who is attending from them companies.
Finally rule number 4, just recap yourselves on the different skills and techniques you can use at networking events, you can never be too prepared for these types of things. Universities are often great at providing some sessions on networking through their employability team. If this isn’t the case as your university, LinkedIn learning offer a range of different videos you can watch, as do YouTube. Learning new techniques and developing current ones are a great way to help you stand out, you never know how influential the person you are talking to is!
Speak to friends and family
There are several ways you can start your networking journey, first of all you need to be prepared to just go for it. Once you’re ready you can dive into these opportunities head first.
The first route is to speak to your parents and close friends. If your parents are in the professional world it is likely they will have a bunch of contacts that you can possibly get easy access to. You might be lucky enough that they are in the industry that you want to get yourself into. This is a great starting point to get yourself networking. If they are attending an event whereby they are able to take a plus one, why not get your name on that list, it’s worth a go right? What’s more beneficial with this idea is that you have an experienced mentor by your side, you can not only start conversations for you but you can learn from them and hopefully have a go at starting conversations yourself.
Another route you can use to get started with networking is, always look at what your university are putting on regarding networking. I know that my Uni are always encouraging us to come along to events where we can meet new people and get chatting to people in industries that we want to one day be in. The great thing about doing it with your university is that there are probably a lot of people there that are like you. This not only provides a topic of conversation but it also means that people there won’t be expecting grade A networking skills. So think of this as a great learning process for yourself.
If you are a university student and you do not have LinkedIn, then download it right now!! LinkedIn is essentially an online platform where you can connect with likeminded people and people in your desired industry. You can get all sorts of information out of LinkedIn including job offers, invitations to events, online workshop invites and so much more! There are also certain groups you can join where you can get to know people and learn off them.
You often find a lot of recruiters on LinkedIn so make sure your profile is up to scratch include your photo, your past education and your past work experiences (basically a mini CV).
You can use LinkedIn to reach out to people yourself. I reached out to a number of people to help me with my dissertation in my final year of university and people were more than willing to help!
Finally, professional associations are a great way for you to get yourself known. For example, the Chartered Management Institute is a great resource and organisation for corporate people because it put who in contact with people alike. If the corporate world isn’t for you, I’m sure there are institutions set up that are more for you. These institutions will do what your university does for you by putting on events and conferences, however they will do it on a much larger scale and you may not get the comfort blanket of there being other students there. So maybe this is one for when you are a little more comfortable and confident in your networking skills.
Networking can come up in all shapes and sizes so make sure you are ready for any occasion. If networking is something that scares you then start off with LinkedIn where everything is virtual and reach out to a few people in your industry to get to know it a bit better. They may even be able to point you in the right direction of a job offer!