It can be difficult to know where to start when developing your network as a student, but we’re here to help! Here are five pointers to get you networking in various contexts including employer/sector events, careers fairs and approaching people speculatively via online platforms such as LinkedIn:
You’ll feel more confident approaching people at employers/sector events if you have researched a little on the sector, employer or person you are meeting. This does not have to be exhaustive, one of the reasons you are networking is to find out more information on what they do and how they do it, but a little research goes a long way in helping you to establish connections with people.
2. Making contact
When approaching a group/person at a networking event use simple techniques such as smiling, listening attentively to what the speaker is saying and preparing some open questions. Our list of questions to ask employers and alumni may help you.
3. The conversation
When you have struck up a conversation, it may helpful if you have prepared a summary of who you are and what you are looking to find out from this person/event in advance. Some people call this a ‘personal pitch’ or ‘elevator pitch’ but it basically covers who you are, what you currently do and what help you need to reach your goal, all covered off in 30 seconds! Have a think…what three things make you unique? It may also be wise to have thought of an interesting talking point, this may be to do with recent news or sector based information, anything someone may have a view point on, as long as it’s not too controversial!
4. Getting out
Sometimes once you’re in a conversation it can be tricky to find a polite way to leave. It can be seen as rude to leave people standing on their own, so try to introduce them to someone else at the event, or suggest that you both move and introduce yourself to a new group. If it’s a drinks reception, you can always suggest getting another drink; you may find others to speak to en route. If these techniques aren’t appropriate, thank the person you are speaking to for the conversation and any information they have provided and explain you are keen to meet others at the event to learn more.
5. Follow up
This is one of the most important parts of networking! Always remember that networking shouldn’t stop at the event. Some of the best information you can learn from people may be as part of a follow up conversation. When you’re there, suggest that it may be useful to meet for a coffee a week later, ask for their contact details so you can set this up. It’s easier to have more in-depth conversations one-on-one as opposed to at a busy event. If they do provide their contact details, always remember to send a thank you in the following days. Finally, remember that even though this person may not be able to help you immediately, they may have contacts in their network that can help or they may be able to help in the future. Therefore nurture these contacts; you never know when they may come in handy and more importantly…when you may be able to help them!
We hope to see you whilst networking at upcoming events!