If you think about it – you already have networks, your university/ college class mates, friends, colleagues, lecturers, bosses, family and then all their contacts, it’s what you do with these relationships that makes networking valuable- or invaluable! Do you ask for introductions, ask for advice, use contacts to ask for job introductions or for mentorship? It’s asking these questions that will lead to fruitful outcomes.

Networking is a fundamental skill to develop as you move from study to employment and throughout your career.  A large percentage of the employed adult population are still scared of the concept of networking and do not use it effectively. It is because people think it’s ‘scary’. If you read this blog carefully, understand how you can use it in line with your personality and then practice and simply ‘go for it’, it should yield you some great results.

Why bother networking and how will it help me?

  • Did you know that over 60% of jobs aren’t advertised and are filled through networks? So are you asking for a role??
  • Have you wondered how to find out more about the culture and working environments of a company you are considering?
  • Do you want learn more about what your desired field of work is really like? What are the future job opportunities like in this field? Is it a sustainable field into the future?
  • Do you wonder how to find a mentor or simply someone to help guide you through the choices or which company to apply for and more so which offer to accept?

These are all reasons to network. You may not need help with all the above points or you may feel like your family or friends may be able to help you, but consider how getting access to the right people who work for the company you want to work for can help leverage and inform you beyond what your family & friends have access to.

Can you list for me who I could consider as ‘in my network’?  Well really… this includes everyone you know, both personally and professionally.

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Friends parents
  • Colleagues
  • Your boss/ past bosses
  • Lecturers/ Tutors
  • Student peers
  • Flatmates
  • Graduate alumni’s- this one is a great one to remember, as they may already be working at organisations that you want to work in and have recently undertaken the recruitment process, so can also give you insights
  • Everyone who is listed above and their networks

The list is endless, as we said- it’s what you do with these contacts that count.

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Beyond your personal networks as listed above, there are also many ways to develop your professional network, even before you start working in a corporate role. 

Beyond your personal networks as listed above, there are also many ways to develop your professional network, even before you start working in a corporate role.

We have some strategies for you:

  • Attend careers fairs and university related networking events which employers attend. If you are not sure where to start, attend your careers services and seek information. We guarantee at any time during the year, there will be events which you can attend.
  • Join relevant professional associations and become active in them, for example joining the professional engineering association if you are studying Engineering. This involves, getting involved in online discussions, posting relevant comments or articles, attending events or seminars. Be seen and heard and don’t be afraid to reach out to association members to gain advice or further networks.  If you are unsure what associations to approach, your campus careers services, lecturers, tutors or industry contacts are a great place to start, but really everything is posted on the internet.
  • Use social media. This is so easy in today’s generation. For example on LinkedIn you can join online professional groups or even follow company pages, connect and speak with company representatives. Meet up is also another great place to connect and meet with people in your industry groups. The social aspect of meet up allows the connections to be made very easily.
  • Join corporate related groups (this is different to relevant professional associations) such as diversity initiatives, expat workers (if this is relevant to you) or women in business.

Now you know who you contact, we’re sure you are wondering what do I do next… How do I prepare and then get the most or anything out of these conversations?

  • The first thing is getting yourself in the right state of mind. Allow yourself to put your nerves or shy nature to the background. We have said before ‘fake it until you make it’… what we mean by this is if feel you simply can’t bring yourself to network at events and if you are happy to stand in the corner, on your phone and not speak with a soul… then either you shouldn’t bother to go, or Fake it! Put your worries to the background and pretend you are the most personable person you know, get out there and just start a conversation. You will realise over time, you don’t need to put it on anymore and you have transitioned into being a more confident networker.
  • We don’t want to contradict ourselves from the point above, but did want to point out that we aren’t asking you to change your personality, but just become more confident in yourself, so whilst you may need to project a braver you- don’t forget to still let your true personality and nature come through or people won’t remember you for who you truly are.
  • If you are not sure what to talk about- then think about 2 things. Firstly what do you want out of these conversations? Advice, a job or a mentor? This will help you develop a base for your conversations. Secondly, once you have discussed point 1, then you can talk about politics, news, art, travel or anything really! Do research on a few particular talking points so you can use them. Ensure you prepare and practice these topics, especially the spiel about what you want, so you recite it clearly and effortlessly.
  • It’s worth telling you that people enjoy talking about themselves. Ask the person/ people who you are conversing with what they do as hobbies, do they enjoying travelling, food or sports for example. That will give you a landing point to further the conversation. A last point to note here is compliments never go astray… use them sparsely and they will go a long way!
  • Know how you want to introduce yourself, your future aspirations, areas of interest and work experience.  You know our motto- practice and be prepared!
  • Just dive in – don’t stand in the corner, go straight over to anyone that you want to and introduce yourself, ask for their names (try and remember them). If it’s an existing conversation, listen or if it’s 1:1, initiate a conversation. The way to get the most of any conversations is to listen and ask relevant questions.
  • If you have an agenda, don’t hold back due to any reason, lay your agenda out during the conversation, ask the relevant questions and then follow up after to keep the relationship going. This will be the best way to get the most out of every interaction.
  • Don’t let someone’s job title, way they dress or speak put you off. Just go for it.
  • Ensure you are able to give your resume or business card when asked. You can easily develop your own personal contact card for pretty cheap at any printers. Just ensure it looks professional!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for their contact details.. but if you do, ensure you follow up straight after by either thanking them for their time if they helped you or let them know it was great to meet them and you will like to stay in touch. But don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Spend the event speaking with as many people as you can. Try not to spend the event speaking with just 1 person because you have a lot in common. You can always catch up with them at the next event or organise a coffee catch up. If you are wondering how to move on from a conversation, this is really common.  We have a few exit strategies for you:

a) Say you have just seen someone you know and you want to go and say hello and then ensure you go and join another group straight away.

b) Be honest and say you would like to meet as many people as possible at the event, it’s been a pleasure and we can connect at the next event.

c) Introduce the person to whom you are speaking to someone else and then you can exit the conversation.

d) An exchange of business cards and firm handshake to wrap up the conversation and say “It was great to meet you and hope you enjoy the rest of the event.”

e) Try not to lie and say you need to leave or go to the bath room and turn around and speak with someone a few feet away… this is a bad look.

  • Try not to start a conversations with the question “what do you do”, it’s obtrusive and so common. A great way to start a conversation will be talking about the event, find out something you have in common or a recent news topic.
  • Prepare prior to attending any event. Know the topic of discussion, about the key note speaker, the industry or association you are attending so you can successfully speak with them or about the event.
  • If you aren’t sure who to strike up a conversation with- look for someone who is standing alone, as they are probably wondering just as much as you are who they should speak with and they will be grateful you came over to talk.
  • Don’t worry about the fear of rejection (this isn’t dating) and certainly don’t apologise for asking for help or contacts. Apologising reflects a lack of confidence.
  • SMILE- people will warm to a friendly face.

The key to networking is to remember:

  • Most people intrinsically want to help each other
  • People like to feel like they can help others- it’s empowering
  • People also love to help young students just starting out in their careers because they were once in your position too, plus you aren’t a threat to their position or job security at this point your career
  • Don’t be shy or let any voices tell you not to go over to someone and start talking
  • Empower yourself to TALK
  • Ensure you know what you are aiming to achieve at each event, have your spiel about you ready and memorised
  • If you are worried about running out of things to say- make sure you have read the news so you have some potential topics to bring up, be prepared!
  • The most unlikely people may be really connected, so don’t discount someone because of the way they look, talk or dress
  • If you REALLY can’t face networking alone, for the first few times ask a friend to come to events and move the circuit with you
  • Practice and memorise the topics that you want to talk about and the questions you want to ask so it comes across clearly and you can get the most out of every interaction
  • Aim to build sincere meaningful relationships that will lead to mutually beneficial outcomes and potential long term reciprocal success

We have listed below some valuable links to websites, books and you tube videos UCGR feels you should get stuck into on the topic of networking. Even if you feel you are quite comfortable with networking, we want to recommend you to master the art of networking, how to prepare, converse and make the most of every situation. Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  1. Heather Townsend- Guide to getting started with social networking- Social Networking
  2. Hank Blank-Networking for students- Networking for students
  3. Andy Lopata is an expert on networking strategy and the author of three books on networking
  4. Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  5. Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon writes about networking know-how for business and Career Success in Make your contacts count
  6. Debra Fine delves into The Fine Art of Small Talk

Undercover Grad Recruiter is finishing off by sharing with you a quote, which is posted on multiple different sites because we felt is summarised the entire art of networking in a raw, emotive and straight up way:

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Happy Networking!

UC Grad Recruiter