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Why networking is important

Did you know that many vacancies are never advertised? In the UK, this is estimated at around 70% of vacancies, which you might be missing out on if you don't learn how to network. You don't have to wait until your final year to build your network, start making contacts now.

Networking can also allow you to find out about types of jobs you may never have thought to search for, or organisations you may never had heard of. It's also a great chance to show employers and useful contacts that you are confident and to make a good impression - and might eventually lead to a job offer!

Getting started
  • Be clear on the purpose of your networking before you start making contact with people, and who would be the best person to help – a recent graduate, experienced manager or an HR team?
  • Start by gathering information that's already available as there's no point in wasting your valuable networking time asking for information that's readily available online.
  • Think of an “elevator pitch” – a short statement of who you are, what you're studying and what information you're looking for, for example – and practice it. It might be helpful to write it down and read it out until your comfortable making your pitch, and ready to use it when the time comes!
  • If you are really too nervous to approach employers directly, book onto Presentations and Skills Sessions organised by your Careers Service. Remember employers have come on to campus and will be keen to hear from students – practice your networking skills by asking a question or asking for a business card at the end of the session.
Finding people to network with

You probably already know lots of useful people; think friends, family, colleagues you've met through work experience and internships. But there are plenty of ways to meet new people to network with (so while persistence often pays off, don't go too far – just move on to the next one!)

To make new contacts, you could try the following:

  • Use Linkedin to build your network, making sure you connect with alumni, join relevant groups and make personal introductions when contacting people you don't know
  • Attend Careers Events – remember employers have come to campus to meet you, so don't be shy!
  • Ask your lecturers if they have any industry links who could help you
  • Make an appointment to see your Careers Adviser who can help you identify useful networks
Starting the conversation

If you are at a networking event, you could introduce yourself with a few prepared lines, or if you feel a little shy, ask about something you have seen on the company's website or in the news. After that, you'll be surprised at how naturally the conversation flows - relax and go with it! There are a few do's and don'ts though:

DO:

  • Prepare some questions which will help you to really understand more about the employer – but avoid anything too technical or controversial!
  • Join in conversations politely if an employer is already speaking to a group, and make relevant comments. Hanging back won't get you noticed
  • Keep the conversation professional – it's OK to talk about hobbies or anything else you might have in common, but remember this is about business networking!

DON'T:

  • Interrupt, talk over anyone else or monopolise the conversation. Let everyone have a turn!
  • Ask for a job directly, or spend the whole conversation “selling” yourself
  • Stick to one person or people you already know, even if you're getting on well. Move round the room - you can always follow up later

Ideally, you should end the conversation by thanking your contact for their time and having arranged a follow up call or meeting – sometimes called an 'Informational Interview'

NOTE: It's never a good idea to ask someone for a job at networking events or during a networking meeting or informational interview, but you might want to make a speculative application in the future.