(Net)Work Hard, Play Hard.
Networking might sound like the worst thing in the world sometimes. Starting a chat with strangers is just not it when unaccompanied by a schooner of liquid confidence in a crowded pub. But in reality, it isn’t so bad. After all, there are so many ways to network, you just have to use the methods right for you. Plus, networking is becoming increasingly popular in the job-search processes with a 74% success rate – meaning you’re more likely to land a gig if you do it.
Essentially, networking is a way to meet industry-relevant people and is a key part of building relationships with industry experts. It’s a major tool for career progression and aids in creating long-term relationships as well as new avenues for opportunities. The University of Newcastle Curriculum and Careers Manager Renee Smith says “Networking is important for students as it helps them make connections and build professional relationships. These relationships are often stronger if they are built through support and respect, and the discovery and/or creation of mutual benefits”.
It may seem intimidating to attend a networking event; having to strike up conversations with head honcho’s and CEO’s. That’s just the formal way of doing things, with conventions or conferences dedicated to establishing and building those relationships. However, there are so many non-traditional and informal avenues for networking nowadays. People can connect and network through social media and relevant hashtags, and network-specific sites such as LinkedIn. Finding professionals or start-ups in your career has never been easier so why not try to strike up a conversation, pose a question or a proposal for work? It’s as easy as pressing a couple buttons and you can contact pretty much anyone, anywhere – if you do, remember to be polite but also be memorable. There are hundreds of industry related Facebook groups out there, so search around and get involved!
The important factor to remember when networking is that the relationships you establish aren’t one sided – you must add something to the mix as well, like trading information or offering a unique service, or even having strong employable qualities.
Confidence is key when networking, as you pretty much have to present and pitch yourself to people over and over – but just remember to take it easy. Start with light conversation or an interesting opening topic and build your way up into the nitty gritty stuff. This will give others an impression of your character which is just as valuable in job seeking or building professional relationships. Of course, you might have to deal with impostor syndrome, the constant nagging thoughts that tell you “you don’t know enough, you don’t add any value to the industry” yada, yada…. Ignore it!!!
Everyone has something valuable, be it their attitude, knowledge, social skills, or leadership qualities, you just need to figure out what your strengths are and play to them.
The best part is, networking doesn’t have to be done all at once, or in the same way. Luckily for you, the university holds regular networking events specific for your industry and promotes other course-relevant events that can be used for networking. The university also hosts webinars on topics that will greatly help your networking, with events such as Career Chats, Meet The Employer sessions, and the Employment Expo series. You can find upcoming events in the University Calendar. If you perform better in face-to-face conversations, or in virtual scenarios – this is the match for you.
Before networking, you should at least be a little prepared. Renee suggests doing some research on who you’ll be chatting with, becoming self-aware of the skills you offer, putting together a quick 30 second elevator pitch, and getting your documents ready. It’s always handy to have business cards or resumes on hand so you can provide people with your number and details, plus your previous work experience and specialty areas. But ultimately, the best thing you can have on hand is your personality, so use it to your advantage!
Renee adds a final piece of advice – “My #1 tip for networking is – be yourself. Networking is about having a conversation and letting people know who you are.”
Networking is a surefire way to build great relationships to help further your career, so send someone a message, add that networking event into your calendar, and in the wise words of Doja Cat “Get into it (yuh)”.