If you are a recent graduate or finalist asking yourself that all-important question, ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ take solace in knowing that you are not the only one feeling this way. Rest assured, it’s not a time to panic. Guest blogger Lucy Farrington-Smith from Inspiring Interns offers advice on some important aspects of career planning.
What is Networking?
It can be a frightening word at first glance. Attending events with the intention to gain exposure in your chosen industry, to build connections, relationships, and hopefully a job lead or two – it’s a big jump from the safety of your university life, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. How on earth do you network effectively without coming across as needy and desperate? Or, on the other hand, without ‘peacocking’ your achievements and being unbearable? A little research will bring up a lot of useful advice, most notably from Forbes. They suggest that, if possible, ‘start networking before you need it’. Not only will this help you garner confidence in business networking, but it will set up vital leads and relationships for you further down the line come graduation.
If it’s too late to do this, don’t worry – find out where local networking events are happening, and get stuck in. There’s no time like the present. Go prepared, treat it like an interview. Know your strengths, your skill-set, and what you can offer an employer. Brush up on your achievements and be ready to dazzle them. But there’s just one caveat to that…
Don’t Go in with a pushy and arrogant demeanour
You don’t want to be a wallflower, but in the same breath you don’t want to come across as arrogant. You will be in a pool of like-minded and similarly-skilled graduates, and if it falls down to your personality being the decider between you and another candidate, don’t let your demeanour be your detriment.
The Guardian suggest ways to conduct a mutually beneficial meeting. Asking genuine, inquisitive questions, ‘What advice would you offer to someone coming into this business for the first time’ for example, shows that you are honestly seeking guidance.
Be vocal about your achievements but keep it humble. How you would feel in a recruiter’s shoes – do you really think they want to hear the same speech over and over? Take the time to work out what is different and individual about your skills, and be ready to offer your unique quality.
Overcoming and coping with ‘imposter syndrome’
This is a common fear – not being able to talk about your genuine and well-earned accomplishments for fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Unless you are blatantly lying on your CV, you have no reason to be scared. It can be hard to talk about yourself when networking, but it’s absolutely essential to overcome this fear to succeed.
If you do suffer from this syndrome, you’re not alone – there are plenty of high achieving celebrities experiencing it (Tina Fey and Sheryl Sandberg, to name but two as reported by The Huffington Post). The article continues to affirm that you should ‘own your confidence’, and a tried-and-tested way to accomplish this is to be ‘authentic and accept that you don’t need to know everything’.
Most of the pressure we feel is applied by none other than ourselves, and by accepting that you can’t and won’t know everything at once helps to ease the fear. Be proud of what you do know, and what you have already achieved – and then let the rest build up naturally as you mature in your career.
Getting the Confidence to Network within Gender-Imbalanced Industries
There are no two-ways about this – it’s intimidating to get your voice heard in a gender-imbalanced room full of strong personalities, none more so than in the tech industry. There are pushes to get women into male-dominated sectors (Karlie Kloss’s coding, for example), but at the moment, reports from the Commission for Employment and Skills say that the logistics sector employ ‘1.45 million people, and less than a quarter of them are female’.
The time to change is now. No industry is off-limits, regardless of your gender. Use it as leverage, and not as an intimidating, off-putting fact. You are as qualified and as capable as the next person, and your gender shouldn’t come into it. Hold your head high, and stand your ground – after all, you have worked/will have worked for three consecutive years (if not more) to gain your degree, and your time to shine is now. And no-one can take that away from you.
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