What Do You Need to Start Networking Successfully?
What do we all mean when we talk about networking? Most people shy away from this conversation as soon as you bring it up - they are not keen to stand in a room of strangers and repeat their '60 second pitch' over and over again in the hope of meeting someone useful. Others don't see the value of networking - they already have a network of school friends, work connections, or perhaps a mentor; do they need more?
There are many preconceptions about networking, and not all of them are accurate. If done right, networking can be an exciting, engaging and highly productive way to meet new people; people who can share knowledge, open opportunities to you, and focus your goals.
So, for those of you who are keen to build a global network, how can you begin? This article will briefly detail three main tips to get you started networking with confidence, and learning along the way.
Step 1: Assess your current networks and connections
Most of us already have a network, or multiple networks, which we are not tapping into. This could be your school friends (from past and present), as well as your tutors at school, other members of the school administration (careers departments can make you aware of a range of internship opportunities, work experience placements and so on), as well as parents of current students and alumni.
- Can you get in touch with an alumni from your school who is now working in the field which interests you, or perhaps contact someone at a university which you want to study at?
- Set up a meeting with you careers department to discuss your goals, and relevant experiences which they can put you in touch with.
- See if you school hosts any community/alumni/networking events, where you can talk to parents, staff, alumni and older students about their industry and how they got to where they are now.
Beyond your school network, you might also have a network from other experiences in your life. For example, if you came on one of our summer courses, you can tap into our global network via bridgemarknetwork.com, where alumni and parents have signed on to mentor, share knowledge, and answer questions you might have. The network is also a great place to find internship opportunities, or ask mentors for work experience.
You might also tap into a network which your parents have access to- ask them if they have any colleagues, friends, or school contacts who know about the subjects and industries which interest you. Mentoring and knowledge sharing can be casual, or it can be more formalized, so don't hesitate to reach out to people you want to learn from and ask what suits them- perhaps they are willing to speak over the phone for 30 minutes, meet up for a coffee, or they might be willing to look over university applications and so on.
The key is to make best use of the people around you, and never stop asking questions!
2. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn might seem like an overly professional tool to be using before you start your professional career, but it is an excellent place to start networking, and learning about the industries which interest you.
- Begin by looking up industry leaders (both companies and individuals) and follow them: You will then fill your news feed with articles which are interesting and relevant to your passion, and help you learn about the industry before you work within it!
- Seek out people who work in a job you find interesting: Add them/ message them- would they be willing to answer a few of your questions? Lots of professionals on LinkedIn are willing to do this, even if it is over email. Be sure to introduce yourself and what you are looking to learn, and don't be afraid to send out lots of messages to ensure you get a few back from those who are willing to help.
- Add your experience to your profile: LinkedIn can also be a great place to find an internship or work experience (you can search for these via the jobs section of the website), so ensure you add your education experience, languages, skills, and volunteering experience to your profile. Don't be afraid to add in your highest graded school work as well.
3. Be genuine
Networking is about many things, so be honest about what you want to learn, and what you already know. Reverse mentoring is becoming increasingly popular with experienced professionals, so it is highly probable that some people you connect with will also be interested in your ideas around the industry.
Take some time to write down questions you have about the subject/ industry which interests you.
Read a few leading articles on the subject to learn more about.
Reach out in a polite and authentic way- be yourself, show your interest, and be confident.
Hopefully this article has given you the confidence and tools to start assessing your network, get started with LinkedIn, and reaching out to potential mentors. We wish you the best of success as you get started, and hope you will share your stories!
If you haven't already, do join our global networking platform to connect with alumni, students, staff and mentors worldwide: bridgemarknetwork.com
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Intimidated by networking, but keen to expand your circle and make meaningful connections? We have three top tips to get you started networking and building lasting professional relationships.