This may come as a shock to you, dear reader, but one day you will graduate. However distant that may seem now, it is useful to take an active interest in your future career whilst time is on your side. Networking is all about getting to know people in fields that you are interested in. It’s not about what you know, but who you know, as the conventional wisdom goes. This isn’t quite true – you can’t become a brain surgeon by befriending medics down the pub. Nevertheless, building rapport with people who can point you in the right direction, put in a good word, or even one day offer you a job, can only be a good thing. Here are some pointers on how to get connected.
Make the most of the University of Manchester Careers Service. Through the CareerConnect portal on the University website, you can book places on upcoming careers events both in-person and online. From career fairs to specific job taster days, there are great options however sure or unsure you are about what you want to do after uni. You can sign up to their weekly newsletter to get the latest opportunities.
Turning up and listening to talks is great, but you also need to get out there and introduce yourself. As mortifying as it can be, people will appreciate you for showing interest. Remember, the gawky elbow bump is out, the handshake is back in. I’ve always found clasping the sweaty palm of a stranger a little gross, but sometimes you have to own it and deploy that firm right wrist with confidence. You can practice this at parties but maybe ditch the handshake there.
If you need go to questions try asking their name, job, what degree they did and how to get into the field.
When people come to an event to represent a profession, company, or organisation, they come with plenty to say. You might want to rush in and tell them about your own interests, but you need to listen first. People like talking about themselves, and it’s a good way to find out what it’s really like working somewhere – including any downsides they might only open up about if you ask.
If like me, you suffer from imposter syndrome, you may find yourself feeling quickly out of your depth when it comes to careers. You tell yourself that you don’t have the experience of your peers. But as a student, employers know that you’re likely coming to all this for the first time. It’s important therefore to show enthusiasm and curiosity above all else.
The best way to hone the former three skills is by joining a society or social group. You can find these on UoM’s Student Union website, fresher’s fairs or through friends. If you’re out of uni, Facebook groups are a great way to meet new people, like Manchester Girl who hold weekly social events. Not only is it easier to talk to strangers over time, but you can also gain new skills or interests and add that to your CV!
Networking advice doesn’t just apply to careers fairs. Sometimes, a more candid way to get advice is from your friend’s parents. And if you share an interest, you can charm your way under their wing. There’s nothing that parents like more than to unload their worldly wisdom unto you.
Make a LinkedIn profile and follow companies and people who interest you. The best time to add someone on LinkedIn is soon after you first meet them, whilst you’re fresh in their mind. Also, remember that most companies and organisations have an ‘about us’ page on their website, with an email address you can use to contact them and ask questions. Smaller companies and organisations are especially appreciative towards anyone showing genuine interest.
So, get out there and start making connections. But remember, networking isn’t the be-all and end-all. Don’t live your life as one endless hustle. Most of the interesting conversations you have aren’t going to lead to a job offer. But the process of engaging with others and learning from their experience will give you greater confidence to find your own path.
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