Networking is about making connections with people who you can contact for more information and advice. It is an incredibly useful tool that can help you to find out more about potential career choices, and also help you with your job search. You have probably been networking already without realising – by talking to alumni at careers events, speaking to employers at careers fairs or presentations or talking to a friend of a friend about their job.
Through networking you can:
- Gain first-hand industry knowledge from current professionals.
- Improve your visibility and career progression in a particular field.
- Demonstrate your skills, commitment and initiative.
- Find voluntary work or work experience to enhance your marketability.
- Access positions that are never advertised: the ‘hidden’ job market.
Building your network in person.
Here at Careers & Enterprise we will be running many events this autumn term. Check the website for details of the individual events: www.careers.ac.uk/events. These events often include alumni who come back to share their career experiences. Make the most of these events:
- Do your research about who’s coming.
- Think about what you would like to know, make sure it’s not available on their website first, and then find a moment to speak with them at the event.
- Make a note of their e-mail address, so you can follow up with a thank you note.
- If you have a career success, or you have another question for them, e-mail them again, reminding them how they specifically helped you and what you have done since meeting them.
When attending a networking event, remember that everyone is there to network so nobody will think you are behaving oddly by walking up to complete strangers and starting a conversation with them. But it does help to prepare your introduction and practise beforehand. Introduce yourself in a clear and relevant manner, mention what your professional or academic interests are or why you are attending the event, and then ask an open-ended question to get the conversation going. Finally, remember to smile!
Here are some examples of questions that you could ask an employer:
- What do you look for when selecting candidates?
- What background experience would make me a good candidate for your company?
- Are there any particular types of experience or courses that would be helpful to get into this area?
- Could you please tell me how you got started in your career?
- How can I make my application stand out?
- What support and training would I receive?