At university, networking is a skill that can be easily over looked.
It’s not like preparing for a project deadline or exam and it doesn’t go towards your final grade, so why does it matter?
As Jamal Edwards told us at Young Leaders… ‘Your network is your net-worth’. It’s important that when leaving university, you have the ability to make connections and establish relationships with people in your field of interest. Not only can this be beneficial to you, but it can also add value to your future employer, or it could help you find employment.
- Firstly, find out who will be at the event you are attending.
Knowing who you want to talk to and get to know will give you a head start. Are you looking for work experience or internships? Do you want to find out about the company and its goals? Or are you interested in the individual and their journey? These are important points to consider before attending.
- Relax, ditch the pitch, you aren’t selling anything, you’re building relationships.
Keep your exchange relatively informal, friendly, and be honest. People want to partner, or do business, with people they feel they could get along with and whose company they think they would enjoy.
- Be proactive. Once at an event, make the effort to engage in conversations. Talk to people.
Ask questions such as: “what brings you to this event?”. This will help you find out what they are looking to get from the event and see if there is anything you can do to help their end goal. If you ask interesting and relevant questions, you make an impression, it shows you have a keen interest in the industry. Overall, being proactive and asking questions will help you find out valuable information about the company, the market or the individual, which is no doubt why you are attending.
- Share your passion. Leave a lasting impression.
Let people know about your passion and how you have pursued this. This shows your drive, and may inspire others. This sort of conversation can be contagious, encouraging others to share experiences.
- Have a two-way conversation.
Show an interest in the person you are talking to, nobody wants to be talked at. This might help you find shared interests, it also shows you are a good communicator.
- Ensure you follow up promptly preferably within a few days.
When following up, you should reference something you discussed, this will help them to remember you and the conversation you had. Networking is the beginning of the conversation, and thus beginning of the relationship, not the end.