You may have heard the term “networking” thrown around a lot during your job search, but what does it actually mean and should you be doing it?
Networking is the process of making contacts and establishing relationships that can help you further your career. Although to a student or recent graduate this may seem intimidating, it is important to build a large network as it could just help you land that dream job you’ve been searching for.
Why is networking important?
Networking enables you to build professional relationships with experienced people that can then help your career by advising you or putting you in contact with others. A 2014 Poll shows that four in five of those who have attended a networking event have seen some benefits from it . Through networking, you can learn more about an industry you are interested in, make contacts and gain an understanding of the different companies on offer for you.
Use your connections
If you do work experience or an internship, be sure to talk to other employees, ask any questions and make contacts. If you make a good impression, these people can be helpful for future advice or putting you in touch with other people.
It is also important to build on existing relationships. Use friends, relatives, friends of parents and university friends, as well as former employers to network with, and they can introduce you to more people and help to build up a network of contacts.
Use social media
Social media is particularly effective for networking and, if used to its potential, can really help to expand your network of contacts. To start, it is key to build an effective and professional social media profile. LinkedIn is the most effective networking tool to use, and it is free! Put time and effort into choosing your connections carefully based on who you are interested in and use personal messages when trying to connect.
You can also join groups based on your area of interest. This will help you to make the most of LinkedIn and establish good relationships. Facebook is also a useful tool as you can use it to stay in touch with old university friends and connect with university alumni through the university alumni Facebook page, for example. You can also join groups and discussions with those interested in similar areas. Twitter can be used to reach out to companies and their employees and ask any questions
If you are reaching out to an employer online, here are some top tips on how to do it as effectively as possible:
- Put thought into your message
- Be concise
- Treat the person with respect and thank them
- Try and find areas of common ground
- Do not directly ask for a job, just let them know you are looking for one
Attend networking events
A good way to network is by attending networking events. You can find networking events online or on social media such as LinkedIn, but only attend events where you are interested in the companies. Your University Careers Service may also be able to recommend some to attend. It is important to prepare for these by doing your research. Identify beforehand who you are interested in talking to and think of any questions you may want to ask. Make sure you get to know the company as it shows you are interested in it and also who the people are and their interests so you have something to talk to them about.
Once you are at the event, use the time effectively. Speak only to people you are actually interested in and make sure you have business cards to hand out to anyone you meet. Then make sure you follow everyone you have met up, and continue to contact them every month or so, without pestering them.
Networking may seem a little daunting to begin with, but the more events you attend and the more messages you send the easier it will become! For more careers advice, head to our Graduate Handbook.