Advice Hub

June 20, 2011

Networking with others

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Written by: Kyle Raffo

Networking is easy if you’re beautiful, rich or the prime minister. Fulfil any of those criteria and you can leave the active bit to other people while you sit back and net whoever takes your fancy. If, on the other hand, you’re none of these things, you’ll need to work at it.

While power and riches are hard to come by for students, it’s relatively easy to work on appearance. A sweater that complements your complexion is a better bet than something from the Oxfam remainder bin that you never quite got round to washing. And even if you can’t be beautiful, make sure you’re memorable – in a good way – by wearing bright colours and a cheery smile, and by asking plenty of intelligent questions.

Not that you’re likely to have much success if you spend all your time thinking about you. The secret of good networking is really about showing an interest in other people. Ask them about themselves and their interests. If they’re people you ought to know about, do your homework, and make sure you can correctly identify them before you meet.

It’s usually a good idea to try to find some point of connection, but this doesn’t mean banging on about some trivial event in your own life. That time you got stuck in a lift doesn’t really equate to 20 years on Robben Island. Instead, think about how you may be useful. Be generous with what you can offer, and you’re more likely to experience generosity in return.

If you suspect that someone will be handy to know, but find them so mind-numbingly dull that you are sure you won’t remember anything they’ve said next time you meet, make notes. And if you find yourself dropping off in mid-conversation it’s perfectly acceptable to move on, so long as you dump them politely on someone else. But don’t be too ready to dismiss people who aren’t yet in a position to offer you a £100,000 salary and company car, or a part in the next Bond movie. They may reach that position sooner than you think.

Seize every networking opportunity that is offered, however apparently unpromising. Making connections with unexpected people in unexpected places is one of the joys of student life, and the contacts you make now could last a lifetime. So be proactive in inviting other people out for a coffee, and never worry about being snubbed.

If you find moving from your desk to attend all these networking events too much effort, there’s always the chance to network online. Be selective about the sites and discussion groups you join, and make sure you don’t come across as fickle or neglectful. In general, the same rules apply as in the offline world. Don’t abandon people midway through an exchange, and follow up promptly any useful encounter or offer of help.

Remember, if you network enough, you may become so successful that you’ll never have to network again.




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