So You Think You Can Network?
Networking. Most students are either intimidated by the prospect or disregard its significance altogether. Regardless, there is no denying networking’s value for students. Chances are, if the idea of networking makes you cringe, you’re thinking about it the wrong way.
University isn’t just about what you do in the classroom. Graduates often find that leaving university with only a degree under your belt makes it much harder to secure employment in an increasingly competitive market. It’s on you to accumulate supplementary experiences, and that includes expanding your network.
Research has shown that around 60% of jobs are not advertised, which only gives more weight to the age-old saying “it’s about who you know, not what you know”. If that’s not an incentive to get out there and connect with people, then I don’t know what is. Like Rome, networks can’t be built in a day. You need to start building relationships while you are a student – before you need to call on or leverage your network.
Before you dive straight in, here is some advice to consider:
Know what you’re about. Take some time to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you want to go. Don’t let your lack of experience translate to the lack of confidence. Show your interests and curiosity to those you engage with. If you aren’t entirely confident talking about yourself, ask questions. At an event like this, an insightful question could say a lot more about you than your personal elevator pitch.
Do your research. You will know who is attending the event beforehand, and with access to a wonderful source of infinite information (aka The Internet), it is your obligation to read up online. While this doesn’t mean knowing the ins and outs of someone’s life; it means you already have an idea of what you would like to speak to them about. Think topics like their experience working overseas, at a particular company, role variations or advice on entering the job market.
Go solo. It’s easy to chat with your fellow students, but some of the most valuable advice are to approach people who are alone. Take social cues and join conversations, it means the pressure is off you to facilitate discussion. However, you will need to read the situations carefully, be cautious of coming across as rude or intrusive. Give others the respect you would expect; active listening is just as important as having your voice heard.
Remember; you’re not there to get a job on the spot. Leading conversation towards scoring a job or internship will reflect badly on you and make the conversation feel disingenuous. If you are interested in employment opportunities at the candidate’s firm, then work it into the conversation, so it comes up organically. You are there to build a network and hear about other people’s experiences, put the right foot forward and make useful contacts and connections that you can follow up after the event.
It is worthwhile following up with someone after making a meaningful connection. Consider asking the candidate whether they would mind connecting with you on LinkedIn so that you can ask further questions at a later date.
Finally, remember you already know how to network. Although you just read an article about ‘how to network’, it comes down to developing authentic connections. Apply the same techniques you would when you are meeting new people. Don’t allow the pretence of a ‘networking event’ fool you into being nervous.
It takes time to build your network, but these are these events are a good place to start.
Buy tickets to SAMM’s Annual Networking Night on Wednesday March 23 HERE.