Published: March 14, 2018
Networking is a big part of university life and the career sphere. Throughout your time at the University of Sunderland, you will have many opportunities to network with employers and other students. This could be through the Student Opportunities Fair, which is held twice a year in October and February, or via subject-specific events such as Journalism and Media’s Movers and Shakers event, which brings regional and national journalists into one room with food, a drink and most importantly a bell.
Networking can seem really scary - after all you could be talking to your future employer. But with these handy top tips, you’ll be getting business cards and contacts a-plenty.
1. Get some business cards
Sure, you can give out your social media handles or your telephone number and email, but you want to make a lasting impression, right? Business cards are a great way to put all of your information in one place. They’re also a great way of getting across to employers who you are and what you do. Your business card can say a lot about you too so it can be part of the first impression you make on someone. You can add links to your work on cards too using a QR reader - from personal experience it’s certainly a talking point if you do!
2. Know who you want to speak to
If you know who’s going to be at an event do some research beforehand. Have some knowledge about what a person or company does. It’s even better if you can keep abreast about the latest goings on in your chosen sector or within a company and talk about what’s happening. It shows employers that you’re passionate about the area you're interested in.
If you don’t know who will be attending - don’t worry - this next tip will help you!
3. Use the three point plan
If you aren't familiar with anyone who’s going to the event - don’t worry. The hardest step is introducing yourself. Walking up to someone, especially when they are talking to someone else, can be nerve-wracking, so timing is key. If there is a break in the conversation, go ahead and introduce yourself, but first listen and smile from the outskirts of the discussion. If conversation is flowing between people then it’s best not to interrupt. Try and catch the person you want to speak to on their own, if you can. An added tip, if you don’t know someone, politely introduce yourself.
But how do you introduce yourself? Well, I use a three point plan. I say who I am, what I do and why I’m at the event. You don’t have to shake someone’s hand - I do - but it’s not always necessary. Sticking to this three point plan when you first meet someone at an event will help shape the conversation and help you come away from the conversation having achieved what you wanted to (hopefully!).
4. Speak to as many people as you can
There are many times where I’ve walked away after a networking event has finished wishing I’d spoken to someone. It’s important to get as much out of the experience as you can, so keep conversations to the point, otherwise you may be caught in a lengthy conversation that you don’t want to be in. Ensure your conversation has a purpose. Ask yourself, why do I want to talk to this person? Is it just to make a contact or is it because I want to talk to them about something specific, because of their expertise or experience? If you do want to move on to speak to another person, politely explain - “I’m sorry, but I’ve just noticed someone I’d like to speak to is free, I’m just going to talk to them.”
5. Don't worry if things don't go to plan
If your experience doesn’t go to plan, don’t worry. These events are a learning experience, for you and for others. There may be seasoned networkers or even super-connectors at the event and it may seem like everyone knows one another, but there will be someone else in the room who will be feeling like you. Getting involved is the key part! If things aren’t going to plan, you can ask to speak to the organiser who may introduce you to some people in the room.