Networking 101

Networking. To some it might be a dirty word that just seems to tumble out of the mouth of your parents and out of touch relatives. Something that makes you think about stuffy parties, drinks you can’t afford and the tie you just couldn’t get quite right regardless of how many YouTube tutorials you watched before you walked out the door but… It’s actually a whole lot more than that. It’s also, very very important. When you think about the process of going to Uni, everything can seem a little one track minded. You’re the one doing the studying, putting in the hard yards, forever on the grind counting down the days to graduation. Sometimes it comes down to generating opportunity through circumstance, and that’s exactly where networking comes into play. With this in mind, we had a chat to UON Careers Consultant, Renee Smith, to get stuck in to networking 101.

What is networking?

It’s probably important that we lock down exactly what networking is, before we just dive right in and start on the never ending handshake train headed straight for the career of your dreams. “It’s the way that you meet people, and it’s an important part of your career progression and mostly it’s about building relationships with the people that are in the industry,” says Renee. “It’s about relationship building not taking. Making sure that you’re able to give something to that relationship or to that employer, or that particular person in the industry”.

Basically, it’s about talking to the people in the line of work you’re most passionate about, ask them what they love most about their job, and take a chance to ask them about what they did and how did they get there.

Types of Networking:

Yes, it’s not all about fancy suits and the Gatsby-esque soirée, because as Renee points out, networking comes in all different shapes and sizes with a method to suit everyone. “There’s formal, informal and social media networking so it’s really across everything. Formal networking is with people within the industry that you want to go into, that exist within a formal structure. For example, you might set up meetings with people or attend a conference and build a relationship in order for something specific to come out of that relationship. There’s also informal networks… as well as networking though social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter”.

I think the notion of social media networking can be ridiculously undervalued a lot of the time, particularly in regard to exactly how easy it is. Twitter especially can be an incredible source of information, and usually provides instant feedback and gratification in regard to how you can seek out and foster important relationships. Why not (professionally) slide into a prominent individuals DMs, or propose an intelligent discussion point, you just never know!

Also hot tip for young players: If you haven’t already, you should probably take the time to maybe clean up your social media profiles just a touch. As much as your drunken #blessed Insta antics, or Facebook rants about the world will probably score you some serious social points with your mates, you can be guaranteed that in today’s digital age, your future employer is absolutely doing the sneaky stalk in prep for your first big interview.

But what about the Intimidation factor?

Despite what we may think, confidence isn’t a tangible object. Confident people don’t walk into a room with a confidence loaded fidget spinner equivalent that enables them to talk to anyone about anything. That sort of things takes practice, guts, tenacity and just the right amount of fake it till you make it. Most importantly however, as Renee says, try not to sweat the small stuff. “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself when you go to do that sort of thing. You don’t have to have a result from every single encounter that you have. Start with an easy chat… and open up that easy conversation first”.

Also, you may have your eyes on the prize but well balanced people make the best employers, “Let them know that you’re a human first, and then a job seeker.”

Where are the best places to network?

Start right here on campus! There are always different expos, career information sessions and degree specific events happening throughout the semester that present perfect opportunities to do exactly what the tattoo written in carefully chosen script on your wrist says and carpe diem – seize the day. Think about the notion of meeting people first, and making contacts second. Start small, think about who you know already. Map out what you’d like to do and you never know, just who the people you know, might know, ya know?

Why is networking important?

Now this is the crux of the thought process, now you’ve got your head around the nitty-gritty networking gig. “If you look at the job market, about 75% of jobs out there are gained through means other than traditional advertising channels or websites. That means if you’re putting your full energy into just job search sites, you’re putting 100% of your energy into only 25% of the job market. Networking is really important as it will open you up to the enormity of the job market… It’s a much more proactive way of looking for work”.

Preach.