There is no doubt that networking is important and, in some occupational sectors, it is vital. When you network, you make a conscious decision to make the most of every new contact you make, and you treat every single encounter as a possible job lead. You aren’t directly asking them for a job, you are simply making them aware that you exist, and that you are the kind of person anyone would want to have working with them.
Where can you network?
Graduate job fairs
A graduate fair brings together graduate recruiters, employment professionals and graduate jobseekers. It gives you the chance to meet people, and for people to meet you. It makes sense to treat a job fair as a possible recruitment opportunity, so think about how you want to appear. For example, in thinking about what to wear, you might choose something that is more formal than informal. You don’t have to go all out for the power suit, perhaps wear trousers rather than jeans and a shirt rather than a t-shirt. You might also like to think about taking copies of your CV, just in case the opportunity to give it to an employer rises. You may also want to take a notebook to take note of contact details. If you do take notes on your phone, make sure the sound is turned off- potential employers are interested in you, not the alert of your WhatsApp messages!
Alumni or invited speaker events
There may be alumni events at your university, to which you as a student, may be invited. The big advantage of talking to alumni is that you already have something in common: your university! And, although they may not have a job opening right now, they may at some point in the future have a vacancy they need to fill, and they remember meeting you. Invited speaker events usually involve representatives from particular job areas. They may be in a position to recruit themselves or they may offer some useful advice. You’ll only know what you can get out of it by going to hear them.
The Internet offers unprecedented possibilities of making yourself known to a very wide audience. You can establish an online presence by: creating a website or a blog; opening a Twitter account; or joining a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn. The most crucial thing to remember is to review any social network you have set up. Ask yourself this: is my online behaviour how I would behave if a potential employer was in the same room? While your friends might think it funny and endearing to hear about you drinking jägermeister until you were sick down yourself, your employer (or potential employer) may take a very different view.
Networking dos and don’ts
Treat every encounter as a possible lead;
be polite and pleasant to everyone at all times;
be prepared to ask questions as much as answering them;
follow up any leads promptly: send an email the next day at the very latest.
Be intimidated: even if it is a disaster the first time, you’ll get better with practice;
be casual: don’t chew gum, swear or make phone calls;
get disheartened: if you have nothing to show for an hour of networking, at the very least you have made an effort;
alienate a contact: let other people have access too.
Just by introducing yourself you show that you are confident, so- go and say hello!