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.
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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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