Networking can open doors that otherwise, you might never get. It is not only a great way to gain valuable advice but also to help you uncover new opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise possibly know about. Most importantly, networking as a student will give you the chance to find out more about the career you want to pursue after graduation.
Why is networking important?
Networking has changed a lot over the years, with social media taking over and becoming such a prominent part of our lives and daily routine. But one thing has remained the same! You may be aware as a student of the cliché phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, however, it is actually more accurate than what you think in this case.
When the time comes for students to look for their first job, a lot of them tend to fall into the trap of only using online job ads in order to find theirs. Applying for jobs on relevant job boards can still be highly effective but only when combined with other job-hunting ways. As a result, they end up competing with dozens of other successful candidates, while having limited experience and not much negotiation power.
On the other hand, there are those who engage in building relationships in their industry during their studies. These students strive to meet and link with key industry connections before they ever even need a job. In turn, when one of these managers has a relevant vacancy, it’s very likely these students will get the job without much, if any, competition.
University is, indeed, a great time to start building a strong network who can help you with your future career path. So, if you do want to be one of these students, it’s time to learn how to network…
The Do’s of student networking
- Visit your University Careers Service
Career offices collaborate with organisations and teaching departments as well as with internship providers and employers to help students make their way into the job market. Therefore, their main goal and mission are to help you connect and meet with the right people to grow your professional career. In addition, your university careers service can also guide you in terms of helping you make informed decisions on your career choices, get your CV right and even introduce you to a mentor to help you out along the way. Most importantly, their service is for free!
- Build connections with lecturers and tutors
Most lecturers already have established a strong professional network and links. That means, they can provide you with valuable advice regarding relevant internship opportunities, networking events and guidance on jobs that might be of interest to you. To begin with, start establishing common interests, asking questions and expertise, or simply ask to chat about your plans after graduation.
In addition, you can look into your university’s academic research interests and offer your help if you find common interests. Doing research and gathering market insight and practical experience will not only set you apart from the competition but it could also lead to referrals.
- Embrace social media
Social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, are a great way to discover and stay in touch with professional contacts. Ensure you make an active effort by creating your own profile and keeping it updated with your latest projects. You can start connecting with your peers and any existing industry connections you may have already formed. Get in touch with your lecturers and the alumni who are already employed in your chosen sector. In doing so, you will be establishing a way to gain insights on how the industry works as well as stay on top of current trends and tools.
- Set up your own website
Setting up your personal website will help you to showcase your skills and experience, especially when it comes to creativity and content. Make sure to keep your website updated with your latest articles, projects, activities and awards. A great way to captivate your audience and keep growing your connections is by engaging with them through storytelling.
- Get out more and collaborate with your fellow students
Grabbing any opportunity to network through events and informal meetups will make it a lot easier to get in touch with other professionals as there usually is less pressure and it is easier to chat. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to follow up – even through a simple thank you email - with any new connections through a short email.
- Engage in volunteering
Non-profit organisations are always looking for additional working hands, willing to contribute and help them with their expertise. Do a great job for these non-profits, and their managers will probably be happy to connect you with their network when the chance comes up.
- Don’t Neglect the power of face-to-face contact
Don’t neglect the power of face to face contact. Social media can definitely boost your networking, however, there is no substitute for getting out there and introducing yourself to people who might know someone who is hiring.
- Don’t expect too much too quickly
You’ve got to give before you get. So, take the time to get to know any new contacts, and see what skills or services you can provide to help them. The goal is to broaden your network and make meaningful connections, so try not to only think about what they can do for you. Successful networking is based in a two-way-process.
- Don’t chase people to be part of your network
Stay true to yourself, be honest, polite and remain professional. Bear in mind there is always a fine line between being keen to meet and connect with someone and plain chasing them, so tread this line carefully.
- Don’t waste opportunities
Networking is a chance to meet new people, but it can also be stressful for some. You may be shy, but networking really doesn’t work if you don’t speak to anyone. So, use your time wisely to calm your nerves. Thinking of potential, relevant questions to ask is a very helpful, effective way!
- Don’t forget to introduce yourself
Aiming to leave a lasting first impression is crucial so that your one-to-one leads remember who you are. Therefore, don’t forget to introduce yourself and say a bit about your interests and future career goals.
- Don’t forget to dress appropriately
Whether it’s a networking event or simply a meeting with a member of the academic staff, dressing professionally is something you should always keep in mind. Remember, you have to look and act the part in order to convince others, you’re ready to work and be a professional.
Konnie Stamelakou is a marketing executive for Zoek – one of the fastest growing UK job boards. She is responsible for content creation as well as for the company’s social media. Working in the recruitment and employment industry enables her to create value-driven content for readers – both on Zoek’s blog and other guest blogs where she publishes content regularly.