A student’s guide to networking

This week’s theme from Careers Steps to Success is all about student professional networking and has extracts taken from MilkRound by Matthew Galvin.

In today’s interconnected society, the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” has never been more true. While you are studying at university, you will be surrounded by people with similar interests. It’s important to take advantage of this opportunity to build relationships, which can be a great asset in your job hunt after you graduate.


Did you know that only around 40% of jobs are advertised? Promoting job vacancies is expensive and time consuming for businesses, resulting in many positions being promoted from within the organisation, or by employing people who have approached them directly.

Furthermore, networking isn’t just a great way to discover career opportunities, it is also a great way to learn about a particular career or industry. Acquiring this insider information will be invaluable in your job hunt, and you will be surprised how willing people are to share their experiences.

Where to start

First, get in contact with your existing network. Establishing who you know within your own network will help you understand what experience and knowledge is available to you in your own environment. Old friends, distant relatives and friends of your parents are a great way to begin to discover potential opportunities and resources. You don’t have to ask them about open positions at their company, simply talking to them about their experiences and listening to their advice will help point you in the right direction. They may even give you access to their contacts.

Where to look

Most universities will hold industry networking events or careers fairs. Use these opportunities to talk to students and recruiters about their company and ask about potential opportunities. If you have the time, take advantage of internships that are exclusive to students, where you can build relationships with students, mentors and employers, while improving your work experience. Additionally, joining student run organisations will also be a great opportunity to build your network with other students. Remember to get to know your lecturers too!

The importance of research

If you are attending a networking event, have a clear idea of who you want to talk to, why you are interested in the organisation, and why you are approaching them. Performing preliminary research on LinkedIn or Twitter will help you gain a better idea of this, and you can prepare some good questions to ask, such as their company application process or competencies you need to demonstrate. This will make you a more confident speaker, and give you further insight into their careers.

Tips on networking

Networking is all about communication, so when networking, it’s important to prepare what you want to say. Having a personal pitch that can be delivered quickly, and to the point, who you are, what you do, and what you want. Although networking may come more natural to you if you are an extrovert, if you are not, do not fear. Have a friend with you while you network to help keep the conversation running. At the start of a conversation, try and orientate the subject around a common interest, giving you confidence to ask questions. Don’t worry if it feels unnatural at first, just remember to listen carefully, be confident in your abilities, and to smile.

Social networking

Additionally, join business networking sites such as LinkedIn. These platforms are becoming an essential source of hiring, and are a crucial asset to networking. Start building a strong LinkedIn profile while you’re at university by adding your peers and lecturers as connections, and ensure that your profile is kept up to date and accurate. Use this opportunity to reflect on your image and online reputation, and tidy up any social media profiles that could be seen as “unprofessional”.

Use LinkedIn in to follow up people you meet, keep up to date with who you know, and track who you want to know. It can also be used to join industry groups, and keep updated on industry relevant information, to help in your networking.

Top tips

  • Try and leave a lasting impression
  • Consider creating business cards with all your contact information
  • Follow up people of interest
  • Don’t stop building your network

Finally, be friendly, be switched on, and don’t be afraid to join in.

Good luck!

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