Often you hear the phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" and frequently I have observed through friends, or experienced personally the frustration that comes with the realisation that knowing the right individual could have made everything much simpler. However, another phrase we often hear, is "nothing worth having comes easily". Yes we all know that person who's mum knew a man who had a cousin that got them a job. But for those of us born without such connections, (tenuous or otherwise) networking is the very simple solution. For those of you who may have heard the term 'networking' thrown around casually in many a deep business conversation, (or for those intimidated by the terminology) networking is simply talking to people about the very subject you love so much you've decided to pursue a career in it.
Firstly, as students it is important to utilise careers services in order to find out about official networking events. Secondly, networking events can also simply appear as a result of other commitments, (see my previous post regarding the importance of joining a society). However, regardless of the format of the networking event one thing you can be sure of, is that important people in the industry you've selected will be in the very same room as you. Unlike being just one piece of paper in a sea of CVs, networking allows you to speak face to face and facilitates a chance to make a great impression.
- Do not panic. Despite initially dreading being forced out of your comfort zone, like everything else networking gets easier with practise.
- Be friendly. From your own experience you know the difficulty in talking to people who are not actually friendly, so don't let this be you.
- Stay focused on the conversation. This seems extremely obvious, but nothing will look worse than answering a simple question wrong and proving you weren't actually listening.
- Have a business card. Undoubtedly you plan to make a great impression on these people, so why not go out with a bang and hand them a handy piece of card that shows them you're professional as well as easily contactable. The only reason I say this, is because I've been to networking events where people have asked for my card which I didn't have but obviously this is optional.
This blog may seem to state the glaringly obvious, but that's the nature of networking. It's nowhere near as intimidating as you'd think, it really is just talking to someone. Stay friendly and attentive and you'll make a great impression. Networking can only benefit you. The individuals in attendance may be looking for someone to hire, they may themselves have a network of other professionals looking to hire or they may even end up being the person who will look at your CV one day soon. Everybody tries to differentiate their CV, but nothing can work in your favour more than having met the employer. Getting involved in networking events builds confidence, adds to experiences for your CV and importantly, prepares you for the daily networking you will experience in the work place.
If you only take in one thing from this blog, let it be that networking is not scary. You don't need to modify your personality to a superhuman confident business-machine, you just need to talk about the subject you're passionate about, with someone who shares your passion.