Networking can be a daunting concept, but it is very useful not only to source new opportunities, but to create friends and connections with others with a common interest.
Whenever you get the chance, take advantage of networking!
Here are some tips to help you increase your networking confidence:
Just go for it!
Firstly, just go for it!
Book yourself in for a networking event or even something more informal such as a book club. The first step is always the hardest but once you get past it, you’ll find that it wasn’t as daunting as you thought it was going to be, solely because every single person at the event has a common interest with a wide range of knowledge. You won’t be alone.
Learn how to introduce yourself
One thing that may put students off from networking is shyness. How do you introduce yourself if you are shy? If you are not too confident with approaching others in person, why not try to introduce yourself via email or social media first and build a rapport. If the thought of that is still a bit daunting, ask a confident friend to accompany you to an event and take tips!
One trick I ultilise a lot is the “is this seat free?” question. This is a good way to strike up a conversation. Just remember, these are people just like you, who have also attended this event to network, so don’t be afraid to start conversations.
There are going to be more than a few faces at these events and it may be difficult for you, as well as other attendees, to remember the name of every person you talk to, this is where business cards come in handy. Depending on what type of networking event you will be attending (business or informal) you may not always need a business card but it’s good to carry a few with you just in case. You can either hand out your own business cards to people you’ve had a promising or interesting conversation with or you can ask for their business cards. Do not hand your card to people you haven’t spoken to as this may be seen as unprofessional.
If you are at more informal event or you are a creative, you can exchange social media handles instead, this is a great way for you to showcase your work whilst simultaneously providing a contact route.
Do not feel disheartened if no one in the room looks like you
It may feel awkward if you look different from others in the room but do not let this put you off.
Many people miss out on professional relationships believing that they will stick out like a sore thumb but businesses may be looking for people exactly like you to bring new ideas into their companies and to get a better insight into their target audiences, old and new. Another reason to not feel disheartened is because your presence may give others the confidence to attend these events and even inspire them enter these industries.
The thought of being out of your comfort zone can be dauting, but it can also reap some fantastic rewards.
Believe in yourself
If you’ve booked yourself into a networking event, it is more than likely that you are serious about this sector/topic. You have ever right to attend, even if you are a novice! Believe in yourself, learn from talks, develop your conversational skills, create professional relationships and offer your helpful insights to other attendees. There is so much to learn and so many potential opportunities!
For more information on how to network and employability skills, please visit our LAUNCH programme page.