Networking your way through University and beyond

For many, networking is a scary prospect. As a way to enhance your job search it’s incredibly powerful but for many it’s not even on their radar. It’s important that you don’t underestimate the power of a strong network of contacts. University life provides you with a plethora of opportunities to do this. Having the ability to draw on relevant contacts can make a world of difference when it comes to sourcing that dream graduate job.

Make the most of events

Keep an eye on My Career Zone for a list of upcoming events with employers and take advantage of these sessions by introducing yourself to the delegates. Be polite, show an interest and ask if they mind you asking a few questions. Employers are expecting students to do this so don’t feel embarrassed to step forward. If the employer doesn’t work for a company on your wish list don’t disregard them, you may not believe it but graduate recruitment is a small world and recruiters know each other and each other’s recruitment practices. You may even find that sound advice from one recruiter will provide you with a link to another.

Use Social Media

Nearly all of us use Facebook and a good proportion of us use Twitter to keep in touch with friends and family. Both of these can be used to network, particularly Twitter where more and more recruiters are turning to help form part of the recruitment process. Using Twitter to connect with companies and people is a great way to expand your personal network as well as keep up to speed on what your favourite actor is up to!

LinkedIn

In addition to these two giants of social media don’t overlook LinkedIn – an online professional networking community with over 75 million worldwide users in over 200 countries.

LinkedIn is currently the foremost business networking site. It’s an ideal way to network across different sectors, look for and talk to potential employers but more importantly talk directly to key stake holders and decision makers in organisations of interest.

Here are some top tips to make the most of what LinkedIn has to offer :

  • Set up your profile with information that you would be happy for a recruiter to see, remember it’s not Facebook so no profile pictures of that regrettable night out where you decided to dress as a 6 foot rabbit!
  • Utilise the groups function and join any that link to your interests or career choices. Make sure you post on subjects that interest you and invite comments from group members.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations of your work. This will provide recruiters with references on tap for them to browse when viewing your profile, don’t worry, you get the opportunity to vet these before they are posted on your profile.
  • Search your contacts personal networks to find other individuals that may be of interest. Remember when requesting to connect to be polite. Adding a personal message can also make all the difference between a potential contact accepting or rejecting your request to connect. It shows you have a real interest to connect and are not just trolling for contacts.
  • Use your contacts to introduce yourself to others, this is a great way of expanding your network and usually requires people to recommend you.
  • Due to the nature of LinkedIn and the fact that social media is de rigeur you are much more likely to get a response from someone via the in system mail function than if you were to contact them via email or phone.

Read more about Social Media Networking on the Career Zone website and book onto one of our Focus on Social Media training sessions through My Career Zone, upcoming dates include:

  • Tuesday 29th January – 3pm
  • Thursday 21st February – 10am
  • Wednesday 6th March – 11am
  • Thursday 28th March 10am

Ask a friend

If you are the kind of person that struggles to interact in a group scenario and find yourself feeling more comfortable attached to just one person, don’t be afraid to ask that person if they can introduce you to others. This is a great safe way of networking and will help to increase your confidence for other events.

Keep your promises

Too often people meet and promise to do things as part of that networking process. Make sure you follow up on promises you make as this ensures that the other person sees you as someone they can trust and who delivers on what they say.

Be prepared

It’s often too easy to find yourself flummoxed with nothing to say when meeting new people. The easy answer is to be prepared and make sure you have a couple of stock questions that you can ask when meeting someone for the first time. Also if you are able to view a list of people attending the event you will be networking at do your research and make sure you have something to ask them when you meet them.

Be yourself

No one likes a schmoozer, people like to speak to people that are genuine and don’t put on an act. That’s not to say that you don’t need to push yourself a little in order for you to initiate that first conversation, just don’t over-do it.

Remember a name

It’s all too easy to meet a contact and within 30 seconds you have forgotten their name because you are concentrating so hard on what to say and trying to not look a fool. A helpful tip is to make sure you use the person’s name in the first few comments you make, this will help reinforce with them that you are interested in them and remember repetition is key, you only have to do this a few times to lodge that name firmly in your head. Finish your conversation by thanking the person for their time and again make sure you use their name at that point too.

In conclusion

Your ability to network and develop your list of contacts will significantly help you when looking for that dream graduate job. Networking is also a skill that you will use throughout your career and remember the more you do it the better you will get. Take the plunge and get networking it’s actually good fun!

Steve Wallers, Employment Services & Placements Manager
University of Exeter

Need a CV that’s all Christmas cracker and no overcooked turkey?

Need a CV that’s all Christmas cracker and no overcooked turkey? Here’s my 14 Festive* CV Blunders and Wonders:

  1. Start your CV with your name, and make it bigger than anything else on your CV. Next comes your contact details including your mobile number and email address. What you don’t want to include is a photo of yourself – in some countries it’s a legal requirement, but not in the UK.
  2. Each section of your CV runs in reverse chronological order starting with the course or job you’re doing at the moment, but don’t live in the past – what you’re doing at Exeter is (usually) more important than what you did at school.
  3. Be proud of your achievements and qualifications, employers love students with passion and drive, but…
  4. …don’t make the section on your A-Levels and GCSEs (pre-university qualifications) longer than the section about your course at Exeter. Employers aren’t looking for lists; they want to see what relevant modules you’re taking and what relevant skills you’re gaining.
  5. Triple check your spelling and grammar. Triple check your spelling and grammar. Triple check your spelling and grammar.
  6. Hobbies and interests are a brilliant way to tell the employer more about you as a person, and about any other skills you can bring to the job. So tell us how your cupcake baking is helping you develop your creativity. But think about what you want to include; being a member of the Pole Dance Society might be fun, but it’s not right for your law internship application.
  7. Your CV should be either 1 or 2 sides of A4. 1 ½ looks like you’ve run out of things to say, and even Lord Sugar wouldn’t have 3 pages. Try expanding or editing your info so it’s a good fit.
  8. Turning up to work on time is nothing to brag about. Everyone is expected to get to work when they’re needed, so swap ‘I am reliable and punctual’ for ‘gained excellent time management skills working in a fast paced retail environment.’
  9. Running your own eBay, Etsy or other online shop looks great on your CV – who wouldn’t want an entrepreneur working for them?
  10. Your CV is all about selling your skills and experience, but keep it relevant to what the employer is looking for. Do they want ‘team players with excellent customer service skills and great communication’? Think about how and where on your CV you’re going to show them you’re that person.
  11. Don’t be funny. Yes, you want a CV that stands out from the crowd, but using humour is a big no-no. You don’t know who’s going to read your CV and you don’t know what kind of mood they’ll be in at the time, so keep everything professional.
  12. Don’t overstate or understate your language abilities. If you can order a beer and loaf of bread you’re not ‘fluent’. Even if it’s malted granary poppy seed roasted onion and chive bread.
  13. Work experience doesn’t have to be paid – it’s what you’ve done and what you’ve gained from doing it that employers are looking for. Great unpaid or voluntary experience equals great work experience.
  14. And finally, repeat after me – ‘The most relevant, most brilliant and most exciting stuff goes on the first page of my CV.’ Because you don’t want to hide your best bits, do you?

For more help and advice we run CV skills sessions and individual CV appointments all year – you can book both through My Career Zone.

*not actually related to Christmas in any way.

Jenny Scarr, Career Zone Information Officer
University of Exeter 

Welcome to the Career Zone blog

Welcome to the University of Exeter Career Zone blog! Here you’ll find tips, advice and resources on all things career related. Our first post is about two very important resources that you need to know about to help you with your career planning while you’re here at the University of Exeter.

1. My Career Zone

My Career Zone

The first is our online system My Career Zone which contains career information and opportunities exclusively for University of Exeter students and recent graduates. Login with your Exeter username and password and you’ll find hundreds of adverts for:

  • Part-time jobs and casual work during term-time and in the holidays
  • Graduate jobs from employers targeting Exeter graduates, some of which you can apply for while you’re still a student
  • Work experience opportunities and internship schemes
  • Jobs and placements overseas, including the Erasmus Work Abroad scheme
  • Volunteering opportunities

My Career Zone is also where you can book onto the huge range of careers and employability events that are run by ourselves and by your College, including:

  • Employer and alumni talks and events on campus, where you can hear about what it’s like to work in certain sectors and what you need to do to get into them
  • Skills sessions to help you become more employable – these might be anything from listening and presentation skills to how to write an effective CV or how to use social media when hunting for jobs
  • Events that count towards The Exeter Award, which provides you with recognition from the University for you extra-curricular achievements

You can access My Career Zone at www.exeter.ac.uk/mycareerzone or you can login from our careers box in the MyExeter Portal. It’s a really fantastic resource, and you can use it for three years after you graduate – so make sure you get the most out of it!

2. The Career Zones

The Career Zone

The Career Zones located in the Forum on the Streatham Campus and in the Exchange on the Cornwall Campus, are open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm. This is where you can drop-in and use our careers resources (print and digital) and speak to our Information Team who will be on hand to help with a range of enquiries, such as:

  • CV or application form reviews
  • Advice on finding work experience, graduate jobs, or postgraduate study
  • Finding information and advice on interviews and assessment centres
  • Information on our programme of workshops and events
  • Help if you have absolutely no idea what you’d like to do after you graduate!

Check out this video to find out more about the Career Zone:

The Career Zones are split into separate areas:

  • Resources – you can use our PCs to search our online resources and look through over 200 magazine and books on a wide range of employability topics
  • Community & Volunteering – Find out about opportunities with the Students’ Guild such as course reps, volunteering, signing up to societies and activities
  • Employer Zone – Meet employers in a relaxed and informal setting and find out more about their opportunities for you
  • Enterprise & Self Employment – Talk to entrepreneurs and get advice about setting up your own business or becoming self employed
  • Global Opportunities – Explore international work placements, jobs and opportunities abroad, discuss options and gain advice and support with the global employability team
  • Work Experience & Jobs – Come and talk to us about finding casual work, internships or graduate jobs both on and off campus

So don’t be shy – pop in and say hello! We look forward to meeting you and helping you start to think about life after Exeter.

Andy Morgan, Web Marketing Officer
University of Exeter