So, you’re in your first graduate level role after university. You’re getting the hang of things, feeling good about where you’re at, and things don’t seem as terrifying as they did in the run up to graduation. And then, all of a sudden, you’ll start hearing networking advice...
You’ll have heard it time and time again from people older or further ahead in their career than you are: you need to be networking. Network, network, and network some more. Networking is extremely important. But where do you fit it all in? You’ve got no time, and attending networking events can be the last thing on your mind. Besides that, who wants to just go up to someone and start talking at them?! Well, fear not, I’m here to give you some sage advice (from someone not long out of university) about how to network, and how to do it without embarrassing or exhausting yourself.
Take Every Opportunity To Attend Events With Work
Easiest way to network without eating into your personal time? Do it as part of your job. No matter what industry you’re in, there are conferences, trade shows, talks, workshops, and other events you can go to. All of these events have other people from various companies and organisations that relate to your job and your chosen industry that you can speak to. Plus, it’s not as daunting as a traditional networking event, as you can automatically relate to them and ask about their role and their company, and they’ll come up to you and do the same. You’ll exchange contact details, and keep in touch. Boom! You’ve networked and you’ve been supported in doing so! Plus, your current company will love that you volunteered to attend.
Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t it kind of sneaky to try to promote myself and get contacts while I’m on work time?” The answer is no, absolutely not. Here’s an example from my own experience. I’m a Digital Marketing Specialist, and was invited to attend a workshop about making video content at a local company I happened to be interested in. The workshop benefited: 1) My own personal development and knowledge, 2) My company, because I can bring what I learned to my role, and 3) My future career, by meeting and interacting with the people at the company during the workshop. If you can tick off all three, then that’s a successful networking and development opportunity.
And here’s the trick: be as enthusiastic and passionate about your role and company as possible when talking to people you want to network with. These contacts may one day be hiring for someone with your skillset, and they're going to remember you if you are a positive and engaging person.
So to summarise:
- Your company is going to an event? Volunteer!
- Be positive, enthusiastic, and passionate about your current role and company.
- Make sure the events you attend will benefit your current role, your current company, and your future career development.
Use LinkedIn As Often As Facebook
You know what’s great? Social networking. LinkedIn is usually the one that gets glossed over by people my age, because it’s not as fun as Facebook or Twitter. But you know what it’s good for? Social networking. You can do it on your phone on the train, or do a quick update on your lunch break. You can add anyone from CEOs to executives on LinkedIn, and it’s isn’t at all embarrassing or scary because it isn’t face to face. There’s very little chance I’d meet the CEO of companies in my field… but I can add them on LinkedIn, and they’ll see anything I post about. Not only that, but when a connection interacts with something you post, all their connections can see it too which amplifies your networking power.
Here’s some stuff you can do to network using LinkedIn:
- Post about your latest project at work. New product? New update? New contract? Great! That’s something tangible that shows off what you are doing in your role.
- Post about your workplace’s latest achievements. New accreditation? Won an award? Attended a show? Your company’s achievements are your achievements too, you were part of the team that made that happen, so show people that.
- Comment on your connection's posts with your opinion. Giving a well-educated, thoughtful response will show anyone who sees it that you have valuable insight into whatever you’re commenting on.
- Add the people you meet at trade shows, workshops, and any other kind of event. Even if you only said hello, it’s worth adding them with a personalised message to encourage them to connect with you and develop the relationship beyond greetings.
You’d be surprised how much attention people pay to what you do and say on LinkedIn, and the positive impact this can have on your career.
Attend Extracurricular Events After-Hours That You’re Interested In
What is the point in going to an extracurricular event that you don’t want to be at in your own time? By extracurricular, I mean one that isn’t to do with your company that you’ve chosen to attend because you heard about it. If you’re internally forcing yourself to go because “it’s a good networking opportunity” then don’t go. You’ll have a bad time, you’ll be even less likely to actually talk to people, and the people you do meet will feel your bad vibes.
Networking events aren’t all scary. If you look hard enough, you’ll find some really fun ones! For example, my partner and I went to a talk in Glasgow hosted by Entrepreneurial Scotland last month. They were hosting a night with James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog, and he’d brought loads of free beer for everyone, we met loads of people from different industries, and then we even met James himself and chatted to him about the sector. It was fun, I learned a lot, and made some valuable connections.
The point is, if you’re looking forward to an event you’re probably 10x more likely to give off a really good impression to anyone who speaks to you and that’s so important when you’re trying to make some contacts. Plus it feels more casual to you because you’re outside work hours, having a genuinely good time.
I hope this article has been useful and these tips inspire your next networking experience. In true networking nature, you can get in touch with me on LinkedIn!
Digital Marketing Graduate at Tempest Brewing Co Ltd