The Power of Networking
The transition from studying to full time employment can be difficult. Everybody moves at a different pace and some people are ready sooner than others. Regardless of what pace you’re moving at, one of the most important things you can do to enhance the likelihood of becoming employed is to network.
It may seem daunting at first and you may be asking yourself ‘How do I network?’ but rest assured it’s not as terrifying as it may seem.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know about networking and afterwards you will feel confident enough to go out and make a number of new contacts.
What is networking?
Networking is the activity of meeting and interacting with new people, with the intention of gaining new information or prospects. Networking allows you to communicate with professional and social contacts in your industry that could possibly benefit you in some way.
How can networking help you?
In short, networking can act as a gateway to a full time job or internship for you. It is also a way of gaining information and advice relevant to your chosen sector.
So, now you know what networking is and how it can help you, here’s how to do it.
Decide what you want from networking
There are a number of difference reasons that you may want to network: you may want to get a new job, you may just want some information or maybe you want some advice. Whatever you hope to get out of networking, it’s important to set out your goals before you leap into it. Setting goals allows you to make a plan for when you get there, as the way you act and the questions you ask could lead you to different opportunities.
If networking is new to you then it’s likely that you might feel nothing short of petrified at the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and starting up a conversation with someone completely random – this is normal. However, to get over that fear, you must push yourself. Once you’ve done it a couple of times it will get easier and you will eventually be able to walk up to anyone in the room and start a conversation.
Networking is all about meeting people and communicating with them and you can’t do that if you are standing in the corner of the room waiting for someone to talk to you. Set yourself some targets, aim to go to a number of networking events a month and see how many contacts you can get, then try and build upon that. The more you push yourself, the easier networking will get.
Make the most of opportunities
If you get invited to a networking event then make the effort to go. Events are there to help you so it’s important to make the most of them. They can often be social events where a number of people from the same or similar industries gather and it’s an informal atmosphere where you can get to know new people and ask them anything you need to know in the meantime. If you’re worried about seeming unprofessional due to lack of experience then these events will be better for you. Professional events are useful because you can go and show off your own skills as well as hearing and learning about others.
If you’re currently a student at University, it’s common for your lecturer’s to invite guest speakers from the industry. These speakers will often be professionals with many years’ experience. Make an extra effort to engage with them, and ask questions whenever possible to show your interest If you can, try and ask for a contact number or email address as this will give you a greater chance of gaining work experience through their organisation. Guest speakers are a great networking opportunity not to be missed!
Networking isn’t all about going to events and talking to strangers; you are networking all the time. If you undertake any work experience or internship then you are in the perfect place to network. Make an impression and show how interested you are in the industry and then work your way around the departments. If you have any questions then be sure to ask because it shows that you are willing to learn.
Also, if you have any ideas that you think will better the company then put them forward too – it may be scary but it will show your initiative and it could make you stand out. Work experience is the perfect place to show off your skills and you could be in with a chance of getting a job at the end of it. Even if you don’t get or want a job, it could still enhance your career and will improve your portfolio which is always a good thing.
A good placement experience could also gain you a referral which could work wonders for your status and reputation. If the company was impressed with your work ethic and capability then it’s likely that you’ll be remembered and you’ll be the first person that comes to mind when a new vacancy comes up – keep in touch with them.
If you think about how many people work at the company, they all have contacts, and if you make a lasting impression then they could refer you to their contacts that could refer you to their contacts. You never know where one contact could take you, so make as many as possible.
Apprenticeships are often a great way to get your foot into a company’s door. Many companies see apprenticeships as an investment for the future – particularly in Engineering. Often in engineering, a company will train their apprentices to a high level, in the hope that they will stay on and develop their career as an engineer with them.
Make a presence
Whether you’re going to an event or you’re completing an internship, it’s important to make a presence. You don’t want to be the person that is stuck making tea, or the person that is stood in the corner so you need to stand out.
Do your research on the company or industry that you’re networking in. There’s nothing worse than someone asking you a question and you don’t know the answer. Doing some research will enable you to feel more confident about starting up a conversation – it can act as an ice breaker.
If you’re quite a shy person then networking is the perfect opportunity for you to gain some confidence, and if you’re confident already then it’s a great way for you to show it off. Try and be as confident as you can when talking to people and show off your personality, you want them to remember you so it’s important to be yourself. Be careful not to step over the line between confidence and arrogance though as people do not warm well to arrogance. Just be yourself and be professional.
- Business cards
This is an additional option, but business cards are a great way to keep in contact with people. If you feel as though you’ve made a good contact then give them your business card and let them know that you’re happy for them to get in touch should they want to. Remember to keep your business card simple and professional and to include any relevant contact details.
As well as having a likeable presence in person, it’s also essential to have an online presence too. Social media has so much power these days and it’s likely that people will look you up if they hear your name. No presence on the internet can cause some companies some concern as they want to know about you and lack of information may insinuate that you have something to hide.
Twitter is slowly taking over the internet and as well as being a great platform to show off your thoughts and work, it’s also a good way to network. You can follow people and tweet them to strike up a direct conversation. You’ll hear about new events and you’ll get a chance to meet people online before meeting them in person.
LinkedIn is becoming a popular platform for job listings; it is essentially like an online CV which potential employers can look at so it’s vital that you make it correct and professional. Check for spelling mistakes and don’t lie about your skills or experience – you’ll get caught out.
Google+ and Facebook are also useful to have, but remember to keep them professional – you could even have two accounts to separate the professional from the personal. Follow and connect with as many people as possible on social media, and maintain the relationships.
Some top tips for networking:
- Make a note of who you already know - they may be your first stepping stone.
- Keep a book of your contacts and their details, that way you’ll always have them to hand if you need them.
- Listen to what people have to say when you’re networking. Take in the information that they give you as it could really benefit you.
- Ask questions if you need to, don’t ever feel like your question isn’t important because it is.
- Follow up, if you say that you’ll get in touch with someone then do it.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” - this statement has never been truer. Everybody that you meet may be able to offer you something; it’s up to you to find out what it is. Now that you know what networking is and how to do it, it’s time to get out there and start making contacts.
Also don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, and request to speak to the HR Manager. You will come across much more enthusiastic and eager this way, and more likely to receive a response, rather than sending emails, as these can often be overlooked
Refer back to this guide any time you need some guidance or motivation and you’ll be well on your way to enhancing your career.
This post has been provided by Hayley Spring on behalf of Acorn Industrial Services.