How I learned the value of networking this summer

Student blogger Rebekah shares her experiences of networking success and how this helped her develop her experience and career ideas.

Rebekah Billingham

I am happy and excited to be in the second year of my English degree. This summer turned out to be different to how I expected it to be, but only in the best possible way. During that time, I got first -and experience of the sort of career I’m moving towards, and in a lot of ways confirmed what I want to do, and how that relates to my talents and personality.

Originally, my goal for the summer was to land one of the Leeds University Scheme internships in communications and marketing I had been applying for. I was disappointed when I was turned down from all of them due to competition, but this was for the best, as I was offered a job working in marketing for a company set up last year after approaching an acquaintance I know from Church. I had completed some casual proofreading for her the previous year. For one thing, it was extremely flexible, requiring me to work 6-12 hours a week, which allowed me to fit it around my other activities.

Going to a business networking event with my boss was definitely stepping up a notch. Being surrounded by smartly dressed business people and canapés with caviar on them was quite interesting to say the least! It was interesting and eye-opening to hear people talk about their businesses and how they started. It made me a bit more commercially aware, as I got a chance to learn a little more about how business works.

The company and my role in it

16 to 25s Growth Hub, the company I worked with, is a service offered to young people to mentor them and support them in the areas of employability and entrepreneurship. They run academy courses for people looking to increase their job prospects, as well as practical and financial support to people looking to start up their own businesses. Because the company is relatively new and not that widely known, their marketing strategy wasn’t developed very well. This is where I come in!

I had to come up with an action plan and a decent marketing strategy for the next 3-6 months. Seeing as how I have no actual experience in marketing, I was a bit out of my depth at first. But once I got into my stride, I was fine. I had to use a lot of creativity and initiative to come up with ways to reach young people. As well as arranging dates and compiling lists of contact details, I devised new social media initiatives with the intention to get people talking. I was delighted with this, as my chosen career requires knowledge of social media, which I was lacking in previously.

New experiences and learning curves

Looking back, there were a few highlights of working with the Growth Hub that really stood out to me, the networking event being one of them.

Towards the end of the summer, I had to contact radio stations, asking them for a slot on a show to advertise our company. I felt like I was in at the deep end, due to my limited knowledge of how radio stations operate with advertising, but I found success with Salford City Radio. I wasn’t expecting to be live on air! The presenter wanted to talk with me and my boss about employability, the company, and my own employability journey. On the day, we were live for about half an hour.

The most satisfying part of the process was handing my boss the finished plan. It was received well, which was such a relief, as I wasn’t sure whether my inexperience had let me down or not. And as a bonus, the Growth Hub’s founder would like me to work with the company in future. Also, a media company that works with them showed an interest in employing me to do editing and proof-reading for their websites. I am excited about this because it is a foot in the door for the career I am aiming towards.

It’s who you know…

Never underestimate the value of your contacts! I only got this opportunity because I asked. And this opened up new possibilities, as one of the media companies that the Growth Hub works with showed an interest in employing me in the near future to do editing work.

So think about who you know, and ask them if they or any body they know could offer them a placement which, apart from being valuable experience, could reveal opportunities you wouldn’t expect…

We have lots more tips about networking on our website as well as advice and stories from other students on the networking category of this blog.  Remember you can talk to us about any career-related questions you might have.

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Filed under Develop your employability, How I got my job, Networking

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