One of the best ways to secure a job post-graduation is by making the most out of your networks. Most graduates don’t realise how much networking they’ve already done – your peers at university, university alumni, and extended family friends all count as potential links to a career you can see yourself having.
Attending networking events within industries you’re interested in is another great way of securing contacts, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t intimidating to approach people and pitch yourself to them. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of networking, without tripping in front of anyone who may be able to offer you a job:
1. Make some business cards
If you’ve been to networking events in the past, you’ll know it can be really challenging to navigate (and remember) the sea of people you end up encountering. One way to distinguish yourself, as well as make yourself memorable to prospective hirers, is by making business cards to hand to anyone you speak to. If you’re still a student, this can include the course you’re doing and your university, as well as links to your LinkedIn Profile or online portfolio/website, depending on what’s applicable to you.
Your first impression matters, so aside from prepping some business cards, make sure you’re attending networking events looking presentable and focus on projecting open and confident body language.
2. Make the most out of your university careers department
All universities have careers services, and most students will wait until their last semester to actually go and make use of the resources they have on offer.
Schedule an appointment and talk through your options- some universities have alumni services that let you get in touch with previous graduates who work in companies you wish to apply to, while others have extensive knowledge about networking events that could benefit you.
Attending career fairs is also another way to come face to face with representatives from various organisations, and talk to them about what a career with them may involve.
3. Be Direct and Succinct
If you’re an introvert, having to introduce yourself over and over again to make conversations with strangers can be akin to torture. This doesn’t have to be your experience, however – begin your conversation by asking what the other person does, and then try and find something you share in common or ask a question about what it involves.
A good rule of thumb in making sustainable conversations is the and-also principal – you say a statement, and then follow up with a question to the other person.
If you want to end the conversation and move on to another person, simply state it was good to speak, and end by exchanging business cards if you intend to follow up with this individual.
Make sure you read around your chosen industry before going into an event like this, and even on the attendees if this is possible. People want to be listened to, and networking is really as simple as being engaged and asking thoughtful questions about what someone does.