Date of Publication: 13 October 2021
Have you always been told by friends and teachers that networking is one of the most important things to do as a student to grow your network, but not sure how to network or even know if it could benefit you in the future?
Don’t worry, you are not alone in wondering what networking could potentially offer.
Many students hear the word ‘networking’ and feel daunted by the very prospect. Thoughts such as ‘what do I do at networking events?’ ‘Where do I go to find networking opportunities?’ Or even, ‘what’s the point of it?’
What is networking? And why is it important?
Before we get started with our top tips for helping you gain networking skills, let’s understand what the purpose of networking is and how powerful it can be.
To make it seem a little less daunting, try to think of networking like a social network. Gaining followers on Instagram and TikTok, adding friends on Snapchat; networking is similar to this but in a professional sense.
You want to establish connections with people within your field of interest. For example, if you are interested in marketing, engineering, or science, you want to build connections with professionals, experts, or even tutors.
The purpose of networking is to form relationships with those who could help you get to where you want to go. And the earlier you start building your network, the better.
If you want to read more about why networking is important for students, take a look at our article here.
How to Network as a Student: 6 Top Tips
Feeling inspired to get a head-start on building your future? Here are our top networking tips to help you start building a network.
Tip 1: College / University Networking
If you are in college or university, then it may be true to say that networking isn’t at the forefront of your mind right now. You may just be navigating through your new classes and thinking about how you will pass your exams.
But trust us, thinking about networking at an early stage in your life can benefit you, and help you understand what you might want to get into when you need to make those important life decisions.
Many hear the phrase; ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Hearing this can be frustrating as a student. But, “with 60% of jobs occurring in a ‘hidden job market’ where roles aren’t always advertised, networking is essential” (Alexa-jane Morre, 2014).
Take advantage of your college or university events that they may have ongoing while you are studying with them and attend networking events organised by your college, university, or any societies you may be part of.
We know they can be quite scary, awkward, or stressful – but by attending these events, it will benefit your future and help you build on communication skills you may feel that you are lacking.
Even if you go into these events just to grab a brochure of companies within an area of your interest, you can start thinking about what other networking events could benefit you, simply by researching companies related to the ones that may have attended the university event.
Aside from universities holding careers fairs and networking events, take advantage of their career services as well. Your university is there to help you improve your employability skills. They can help with improving your CV and explore different ways to improve you professionally. How?
They will be able to point you in the right direction, on securing internships, where to find upcoming job fairs, or even put you in contact with university alumni who can talk to you about roles you may be interested in. Never be afraid to ask for help on how to improve or write your CV, they are there to help guide you through something that may not come naturally to you.
Tip 2: Using social media (LinkedIn) develop your online presence
Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself that using social media could help develop your online presence in a professional setting?
In today’s modern economy, making sure you have an online presence is essential, as it will be one of the first things a possible recruiter or interviewer will look at.
Just think of this in the same way that you would search for companies or people within a company before or after applying for a job role. If this is something you do, then it’s something the recruiter is almost certainly going to do to you.
Once you start using social media, it’s also good to think about and consider what you put online. The things you decide to put on the internet is important, as the internet holds things forever. So be mindful of what you do say and whether that could follow you throughout your career.
So, aside from liking that funny cat video, how do you create your personal brand? And what should you be considering about your social media?
The first thing to consider is creating a LinkedIn profile – this is considered a professional requirement in most fields. Even if you are currently not employed, it is a good idea to start building your profile. Here are some things you could add:
- Setting a profile picture is an important step for setting a LinkedIn profile. If you are to skip any of the tips listed here, we would recommend not to pass on this one. Your LinkedIn picture is the first impression a potential employer will make, so there are some do’s and don’ts. Be mindful of what you are wearing and try to avoid selfies, if you want more information. Here is an article on what you should be aiming towards.
- Write a bio – there are many students that try and avoid writing a bio, but this is an important part of your LinkedIn profile. It’s a chance to briefly write about you, what you are currently doing, what industry you may be interested in, and what skills you have. If you are still stuck on writing your LinkedIn bio, here is an article to help you out.
- Education history could include your GCSEs, A-Levels, college or university degree. Even if you haven’t completed them and you are still currently studying, it is still worth mentioning as it will give an idea to anyone looking at your profile on where you currently are in your academic cycle.
- Employment history, including all full-time, part-time and voluntary work. Some are afraid of putting any volunteering work they have done, thinking it may not be worth mentioning, but, do not be afraid to showcase any volunteering work you have done! Not everyone can say they have gone out of their way to offer their free time, and it gives recruiters a good sense of who you are as a person. When you do mention your volunteering work, list or write in a paragraph what you did there and maybe the impact you made.
Tip 3: Attending external networking events
If you have discovered the world of networking through your school, college, or university and want more, there are many opportunities for you to develop your network. There are many external events that run every year, many more that could be related to the field you are interested in. However, if the thought of networking still feels daunting, do not fear.
There have always been many opportunities to network virtually – and even more so since everyone has moved into the virtual world.
A good place to start researching some events would be Eventbrite. They offer many free events you can take part in, offering both in-person and online events.
Networking online is handy for those feeling the pressure to constantly make eye contact, communicate, or even react to people you may be talking to in-person.
Many online events have set up break-out rooms allowing you to speak within a group of people without you feeling as though it is a one on one conversation. This should hopefully take some pressure off of you, as other people within the group can take charge of the conversation if you are struggling to. Over time, and the more events you attend, you’ll gain more confidence, and one day, you may even find yourself as the one leading conversation!
If you are someone that prefers in person networking events, here are some tips we would recommend to help best prepare yourself for them:
- Why – Before you get to the event, ask yourself ‘why am I going?’ Decide on the outcome you want to achieve, whether you want to meet new people to expand your network, meet potential employers that could lead to a new job, or you may just want to practice your communication skills. Identifying your outcome will help you stay focused and not feel as though you have no purpose for being at the event.
- Introductions – Do not forget to introduce yourself to the organiser of the event. A great way to get to know who is at the event and for you to stay focused on your outcomes, if you speak to the organiser they could point you in the right direction and can introduce you to other attendees.
- Do not be afraid to join in other conversations – there is nothing wrong with joining conversations and engaging with those already speaking. Just join in and introduce yourself, politely. In most cases, people already speaking enjoy the interruption as it gives them a chance to meet someone new. But if you feel as though you have entered a serious conversation, there is nothing wrong with excusing yourself from it.
- Be bold – and do not be afraid of getting things wrong. There is no wrong or right answer in how to network. Something that may work for some may not work for you; it is a process and once you have gone to a couple of events you will get into a rhythm that suits you the most.
Tip 4: Stay in touch with your network
Once you’ve made all your lovely new connections, it’s very important to remember to keep in contact with them.
But what’s the best way to keep in contact?
Let us assume you have now set up your online presence, this includes your personal social media accounts and your professional LinkedIn profile.
One of the best ways to stay in touch with your network is to post on LinkedIn, follow businesses or companies which interest you, share your favourite articles or posts, like other posts people upload, showing your appreciation, and build your connections by reaching out to them.
Here are just a few examples of what you can do on LinkedIn to stay in contact with your network:
- Share your achievements online – if you have successfully completed a course or a personal achievement, don’t be afraid to share this with your network online. When you do share your achievement on LinkedIn don’t forget to use hashtags to help gain a further reach, you never know who will see the post, and who could give you that opportunity.
- Devote some time to add and reconnect with people – While we know it is impossible to keep in contact with everyone all the time, you should still dedicate some time to meet new people and reconnect with those with whom you may have studied or worked with. Connecting with new people that may be working in the field you are interested in could help you gain valuable insights. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep in contact with them.
- Focus time on your feed – If you follow any companies or have made new connections, ensure to find some time to go through your LinkedIn feed each day or week. If you see something that catches your interest or if someone has posted an achievement be sure to give it a like. The more active you are on LinkedIn the likely chance your profile will be noticed by others.
Tip 5: Reach out to everyone you know in your personal network
Once you’ve made your connections, it’s important to keep in regular contact and even strengthen your relationships with people you may have already worked with in the past. It is important to forge truly authentic relationships, moving from being strangers to becoming your acquaintances, then friends, then to close connections.
But how can you build solid relationships with all of your connections? Each of the stages can bring its own sets of concerns – the transformation stage from being strangers to acquaintances can be filled with awkwardness and having any sort of ice breaker can feel uncomfortable. How can you overcome this?
Putting it into simple terms, there is an actual difference between knowing someone and actually knowing someone. Mike Steib gives a good approach to networking differently and shows how his methods are the key reasons to how he has built meaningful networks. We know that you aren’t setting off to network because you are starting your own business (or maybe you are), but these networking tips are transferable and can help you in the future when you do attend those all important events.
Once you are proud of the connections that you have made, this is your chance to reach out to them, but make sure you have a purpose and reason for messaging them. If you decide on messaging someone and don’t have a clear goal in mind, it could just become an awkward conversation leading to nothing. If you are introducing yourself to this person, make sure you aren’t just cold messaging them.
But if there is someone from somewhere, met them once, heard them speak, or were referred to them by a friend, say that to them! It can go a long way – it just takes that one person to open the right doors for you. And, with any luck, you may end up having a coffee with them by the end of the week.
Even if this does not happen right away, do not feel disheartened by this – it is a process. The more frequent you are with it, the more likely you will find that someone to give you a chance.
Tip 6: Get out and find hobbies
Do you have a hobby? Something you enjoy doing in your spare time? It could be anything – rock climbing, cycling or football? Or are you part of any communities or clubs? All of these extracurricular activities you do outside of school can help you gain professional relationships. You get to meet so many interesting people who work or have the same passions or even career aspirations as you.
Get talking to people that you see when you take part in your hobbies. Who knows where it could lead to? Even if they can’t help you directly, you never know who they know – and by sharing the same interests with people, you can build a friendship with them and talk about things outside of work.
Whatever it is you like to do, go beyond school and university to help expand your social circle. Do things that have nothing to do with your subject or degree – this will force you to socialize with people that you may not normally.
Not only will this develop your network, but you will be amazed at what it will do to your mental health. It will help with your socialisation skills, and if you have ever felt uncomfortable speaking to new people this is a great opportunity to go outside your comfort zone but still take part in an activity that you feel comfortable with.
What student networking tips can we take away from this article?
- If you are currently at school, college or university – do not forget to take advantage of their career services, they are there to help you with any direct questions you may have regarding how to network, job search, CV, and cover letter writing.
- If you haven’t already set up a LinkedIn profile, we strongly recommend you to create a profile sooner rather than later, build your online presence and start adding your achievements you have already accomplished.
- Start thinking about the future, and look online at any potential networking opportunities that take your interest. It may feel daunting to look at events in a big social setting however, this could be a good chance to gain more confidence in speaking to strangers and gain valuable skills in what it could be like networking in the future.
- Once you have set up your LinkedIn profile, keep engaged with those with whom you are connected and engage with companies you follow. Engagement doesn’t just mean liking and commenting on posts, don’t be afraid to post yourself, if you find an article that interests you, share this on your feed and you never know who it could attract.
- Reach out directly to people on LinkedIn – if there is someone you want to get to know better, speak to them. But keep in mind you need a purpose for messaging, you don’t want to suddenly reach out to someone and then not know what to say to them.
- Finally, explore your hobbies and interests – this is always a great place to meet new people with the same interests as you. Joining clubs and communities will not only improve your potential network but also your social skills. Get out there and discover the possibilities.
Your chance to network with like-minded students from all over the world
Want to put our networking tips into practice?
There’s no better way to meet people just as academically-curious as you than at an international summer school.
Sharing a love for learning, your subject, as well as trying new, enriching experiences, it’s the perfect opportunity to start building meaningful connections with people who will stay with you for life.
What’s more, you’ll also benefit from being taught by one of our expert tutors, who will write you a letter of recommendation to use on future university applications – it’s one of the best advantages you can gain from a networking opportunity!
Join us next summer – apply now.