Although you might have spent a considerable chunk of your time at university socialising, when it comes to professional socialising – “networking” – you might feel like a fish out of water. You’re not alone; many people think of networking as a scary prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Networking is a great way to make new connections and expand your industry contacts; you never know when they could come in handy.
Make the most of networking opportunities by following these top tips:
Just say yes
In some placements your employer might ask you to go to events within or outside of your normal working hours. You should say yes to as many opportunities as you can. Networking is a great way to get to meet new people, expand your knowledge and your contacts.
Networking takes many different forms; from specific networking events, to trade shows, conferences and graduate fairs, any event where you meet new people can qualify as networking. But what all of these events have in common, is that everyone attending is looking to meet new people, so will welcome a friendly approach.
Dress to impress
It’s important that at networking events, you give off the best impression possible. When you’re there, you’re representing yourself and the organisation you work for, so you want to present yourself smartly and appropriately for the event. Find out the dress-code and stick to it. You wouldn’t wear a suit to an inter-company football tournament, or sports kit to a black tie dinner.
Prepare your pitch
Now you’re in a room full of industry colleagues, many of whom have years of experience. What do you say? How do you introduce yourself? Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ before you attend an event so you know exactly how to describe you, your company and what your role is in a succinct way and you won’t end up tongue-tied.
Equally as important as being able to talk about yourself is listening intently to what other people have to say. At networking events, everybody wants to talk about what they do, so listening and showing an interest is a great foundation to build a professional relationship on.
Bank some work-appropriate anecdotes
Although your mates might appreciate embarrassing stories about what you did one night at the students’ union, you won’t make many worthwhile connections regaling the tale to other professionals. Keep a couple of work-appropriate anecdotes up your sleeve ready to deploy when the time is right. As a general rule of thumb, stories should be kept clean enough that you wouldn’t mind them getting back to your boss.
LinkedIn is the new Facebook
Networking doesn’t end when you leave an event. It’s important to follow-up with the people you met by sending them an email, or inviting them to connect on LinkedIn to keep in touch. All graduates should set up LinkedIn accounts to professionally network and keep up with industry news – check out our useful guide. By developing a bank of connections on your LinkedIn account, you can directly contact any of them in the future. Start your LinkedIn journey by following ScotGrad.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary or daunting. Find events that are relevant and interesting for you and you’ll always have something to talk to someone about. Follow the simple steps above and you’ll soon be a networking expert!