When thinking about networking, many people may think of it in a professional context but you probably network a lot in your personal life also. So for example, meeting someone and talking to them about something you like and sharing this information with them is networking. Essentially networking is about gathering information and building a relationship and rapport with another person. In relation to the professional context, this could help to develop knowledge and opportunities within sectors, organisations and specific job roles.
Networking can sometimes scare people. Questions such as “how do I network?”, “what questions should I ask?”, “how do I know if I am doing it correctly?” may run through your head. Fear not, as we have put together some tips to help you prepare and deal with the dreaded networking for your career planning:
Networking with someone you already know
This should be fairly familiar to you as you already know the person but this in turn can make it more nerve wrecking. Important things to remember for this type of networking, is to start off the conversation with this person by talking about something that you both have in common (if you already know them, this should hopefully be ok!) Following on from this, you could then start to talk about what sort of information or help you were seeking and hopefully they will be able to enlighten you. It is important to remember to also remain professional when networking with this person – you want to continue to make a good impression even if you already know them!
Networking with someone you don’t know
This type of person could take many formats – so it could be an alumnus from the University (you can now contact various alumni through the Leeds Network) or it could be a friend of a friend who you have never spoken to before. Again another rule here is to remain professional. Remember if you are contacting this person off your own back, you will need to introduce yourself and how you got their contact details. Prepare questions you would like to ask them before contacting them. Be positive and genuine and ask them the questions you have prepared. If they can’t help you, remember they also have a large network too so you could ask them for alternative sources of help or information. Follow up this initial communication by keeping the person up to date with your progress and this will help to maintain your relationship.
Networking on social media
Some things may be shown on social media and nowhere else so there is a massive network out there for you to make use of! You can ‘like’ certain organisations on Facebook and straight away you get some sort of an insight into the company. Keep an eye on the pages that you have ‘liked’ for any interesting or relevant information and get in contact with them if you see something you would like to hear more about. Likewise follow relevant people or organisations on Twitter – if you see them tweet something interesting, then tweet them back about it – there are massive opportunities here to develop your network! Likewise connect with relevant individuals on LinkedIn. For more information on networking through LinkedIn, have a look at our recent blog post “So you’ve joined LinkedIn-now what?”
Networking at a Careers Fair
There are lots of opportunities to develop your network at a Careers Fair. There are 3 important aspects to networking in general and these are extremely important for a fair:
– Research – You need to find out more about the companies you want to target by checking out their websites and finding out more about them from a variety of sources. This will allow you to prepare sensible questions in relation to the role and company, to ask a representative at a fair.
– Make contact – When you are at the fair, make contact with the representatives from the relevant organisations. Ask them the questions you have prepared and remain professional. Creating a positive professional image is important and you want this person to remember you in the future. Many employers tell us that they WILL remember a student who they spoke to at a Careers Fair who stood out and will keep in contact with them.
– Follow-up – One of the key factors with networking is to follow up your interaction and to update the person you networked with about your current situation. This allows you to maintain relations, there is the possibility of future opportunities and it highlights how serious you are about the whole process. To help maintain your relationship with the contact:
- Thank them for any help they do provide and ensure you keep contacts you have used updated on your progress.
- Respect the fact they’re helping you.
- Check if you can use their name when applying.
- You could also connect with them on social networks.
For further information on networking at a fair, check out our recent post “Will you be getting the most out of the Yorkshire Graduate Recruitment Fair?”
Just to round it all off, here are some quick tips for networking in any context:
- Prepare questions carefully
- Be professional
- Thank them
- Be positive, genuine and be yourself
- Emphasise what you have to offer (where appropriate)
- If they can’t help, ask for any alternative sources of help/information
- Keep careful records of all experiences and contacts
- Keep the person you networked with updated of your situation
- Don’t ask for a job – this is not the point!