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Monday, August 4, 2014

Networking’s not so nerve-racking, promise...

I recently came across an article from the University of Manchester with the title ‘Networking? I’d rather eat my own shoes...’ Aside from being a very eye-catching headline, I think it sums up pretty neatly how most of us feel about networking: it doses us with feelings of dread, inadequacy, sweaty palms, eminent embarrassment and sometimes outright terror. 

If it’s meant to be the ‘key’ to finding a decent graduate job then why do we all seem to hate it?

I think it boils down to the fact that many of us have little self-confidence and approaching strangers to talk business is just too darn intimidating. University work is actually very solitary; you get an essay question via email or a virtual learning environment and you sit in front of a computer and get on with it. Later, you sit in silence in a big hall with an exam paper and you just get on with it. Professional social butterflies we are not.

So how can we boost our confidence and work up the nerve to network? Well there’s an amazing TED talk on body language by Amy Cuddy who gives some great advice: fake it until you make it. She explains it much better in the talk but the basic point is: if you’re not the confident go-getter, act the part of someone who is. So you could do this by thinking of someone you know who is chatty and confident and do what they would do. Eventually you’ll realise that you can do it, it’s not that scary and you’re a lot braver than you give yourself credit for.

Another thing to bear in mind is that ‘networking’ is just a buzzword and not as scary as it sounds. Really, all you have to do is have a chat with someone new and who’s never done that before? In the first seminars of your degree or when you joined that society, you managed to keep up a conversation with people you’d never met before – you were networking even if you didn't know it.


Top tips for networking success:

  • Join LinkedIn and make connections with the people you meet.
  • Keep in touch with lecturers – they usually know many people in their field.
  • If you go to a guest lecture, go introduce yourself to the speaker afterwards.
  • Talk to recruiters at careers fairs as well as graduates who are already employed at the company.
  • Join a professional body for your career area and get involved in events and online discussions.
  • Remember that it’s not about approaching someone and asking for a job outright – it’s about making yourself known so that when you do apply for a job, people already have a good impression.
  • People love to talk about themselves so keep asking questions and listen to what people have to say and you’re already part of the way there.
Written by Jess Jennison 
Editorial Intern