It seems everyone you speak to, talks about the need to network. So, what is networking and why is it important? Networking helps you to stay on top of the latest trends, the job market and develop and improve your skill set. It’s an opportunity to meet prospective mentors and leaders and gain access to resources that will support you with your career development.
Before you rush out to the next university event, career fair or connect with someone on LinkedIn, there is some thinking you’ll need to do prior.
It’s important to be able to explain who you are, what you do and that you’re exploring career opportunities. The best way to do this is in a concise sentence, whilst still being authentic to you. In the business world we call this the elevator pitch and where possible keep it as conversational as possible.
There are many ways to network. Some events will be by invitation only and some might be open to all. Meet up is a great place to start as well as reaching out to your lecturers and tutors.
You’ve prepared your elevator pitch and found an event, now what? Starting a conversation with someone can be really intimidating. I’ve found that when I’ve walked into an event and focused on me, I have become tongue tied. I noticed when I put that focus on those in the room with an intent of curiosity, I find it easier to reach out to someone. Start small, find someone who is standing on their own, chances are they are feeling the same way so starting the conversation will be easy.
You could also start a casual conversation with someone you have met in the queue whilst waiting to enter the room, waiting for a drink at the bar or genuinely complimenting. Talk about what you’ve noticed; “it’s a great crowd”, “you’re really interested in what the speaker has to say tonight”.
Now that you’ve opened the dialogue, it’s important to move to a deeper and more meaningful conversation. I suggest asking your connection about themselves, keep it business focused, be curious and only talk about yourself when you’re asked. Feel free to give them your elevator pitch and answer any questions they may have as a result and allow the conversation to flow back to them.
If you’ve found that you were able to converse well with your new contact, before you leave them, ask them for a business card or connect with them on LinkedIn (please don’t ask for this too early). You can do this at the event with the LinkedIn QR code function. If you choose to do this after the event, please ensure to include a personalised invite, thanking them for their time at the event and perhaps reference something from the conversation. This will enable them to recall the evening and your conversation. Never send a LinkedIn request without an introduction.
Networking events are business related and your future employer may be in attendance or know someone there, so please never allow yourself to become intoxicated, regardless of how much others may be drinking. One last thing, the one mistake I have seen people do, is overstaying their welcome. This is a networking event and it’s important to not monopolise one person the entire evening.
Remember you’re all there to make new connections. Look out for the body language cues that let you know it’s time to thank them for their time and politely allow you both to meet other people. Now go out and meet some new people, you’ve got this!