Networking is a big thing! There are innumerable advertised opportunities to network at Warwick, but what does it really mean and do you have to do it? The good news is that at the most basic level networking is talking to other people. We all network every day when we go about our daily lives and interact with those around us face to face and via social media.
So, if it is this simple why does the word strike fear into so many of us? This is because that when we hear the word “networking” many of us visualise a large room full of people we don’t know. We are daunted by the idea of walking in and starting conversations, perhaps it would be better to run away and hide instead?
Most networking you will be advised to do when you are a student won’t feel like this at all. So when and how will you be networking?
1. At careers fairs.
Employers have come onto campus to meet you. They have taken the time and the trouble to be here and want to engage with you. You can get the most out of the experience of meeting them by doing some preparation first. Find out which organisations are attending fairs and do some initial research to understand which might interest you. Once you have drawn up a shortlist of no more than 5 or 6 do some serious research into what they do and what they have to offer. Make some notes and think of some questions. When you meet them you’ll have something to say to get the conversation going and they will probably be impressed with your knowledge. Follow up your conversations afterwards with a quick email of thanks. This also gives you another opportunity to ask any supplemental questions which have occurred to you.
2. At employer led presentations and skills sessions.
There are lots of these and you will have a chance to meet employers informally, often over drinks and sometimes canapés. If the idea of having to initiate conversations in this less structured environment scares you, then make sure you arrive when the event starts and have a few pre-planned questions ready. That way you will be able to strike up conversations without having to break into established groups and you should find the conversations starts to flow. You might even start enjoying yourself! Again, don’t forget to drop the thank you email through.
3. With fellow students.
You are in a big cohort of bright and motivated people, many will already have worked and students in the years above you are usually very ready to share their experiences. By striking up conversations you are likely to be able to find out about different recruitment processes and get the inside story on employers which appeal to you. Some of the engagement with fellow students might be formal and take place at society events; much of it will take place around lectures and in your department.
You probably use Facebook, and possibly Twitter and Instagram as part of your daily life. Do make sure that your privacy settings protect anything you would not be proud to show potential employers, but once you have done that, why not follow or “like” organisations which appeal to you? This is a great way of keeping up-to-date with what they are doing and sometimes you will find job opportunities posted. It is a good idea to get your LinkedIn account set up too. Make sure that you treat this as the professional networking tool it is. Your photograph should be professional and your connect requests should be personalised. It offers the opportunity to join interest groups which appeal to you and provides you with more useful information about prospective employers.
The key to successful networking is in forming relationships and then in keeping those relationships alive and current. You can’t just have a push to establish contacts and then sit back. Make sure you take opportunities to renew acquaintances with employers as you move through your time here at Warwick and keep hold of your peer contacts as people move away. Social media provides you with an easy way to do that. Above all try to enjoy your networking. The more you do, the better you get and the more fun it becomes.
Why don’t you have a look now at my former colleague Helen Stringer’s take on how to start networking? You’ll find more great tips.