Approaching an employer can be daunting, especially for the first time. But as a student, there will often be networking events with your university and missing out on these may lose you some great opportunities. Networking doesn’t need to be daunting, after all – the representatives of the companies are humans too!
Before attending the networking event, make sure you’ve researched the company and industry well. Pathfinder is a great way to determine which industry is best suited to you, which definitely saves time when attending networking events. These psychometric tests are really quick and are a lifesaver for matching you with the relevant companies that fit with you. Furthermore, if you want to practise your networking skills, or simply meet more people in the industry, the website provides a tailored list of networking events near you where you can do this!
Because networking is intimidating to some students, they often formulate a script of what to say to each employer. Although this is great preparation, it can come across ingenuine. Instead, remember a few specific points you want to bring up in the conversation (if any), this will often be questions that you want to learn about the company. Talking to the employer in a more conversational style will often come more naturally to you, and gives you chance to explore topics that you haven’t thought about before too. If the conversation runs dry, but you’re not ready to end it yet, a great tip is to ask questions about what the employer does in the company – after all, people love talking about themselves!
Asking questions is a great way to continue the conversation and prove your interest in the company, and often, employers will ask questions in return (such as what industry you’re interested in). However, be careful not to turn the networking into an interrogation! After asking the question, ensure the employer has finished what they’re saying before starting a new question – jumping from topic to topic can come across like you’re not listening properly.
Networking can be a great place for passing on your CV, but make sure not to make this the purpose of your conversation – sometimes a good conversation with an employer can lead to more opportunities than handing over your CV. If the networking is going well, and you’ve both identified a role within the company you would be suited for – suggest handing over the CV. Most companies now ask students to apply online, so don’t be off-put if they decline your CV for this reason! It’s also a good idea to have the CV packed away in your bag when approaching the employers, and only getting it out if they agree to take it from you – this stops the employer from assuming giving it over is the only reason you’re networking (or saves for awkwardly shoving it away if you decide the company isn’t for you!). If handing over your CV isn’t your style, you can ask the employer you’ve been talking to if you can connect on LinkedIn. This social media platform is a great way to keep in contact with the people you meet in a professional manor. You can also build your profile for a digital CV, which they will be able to browse through later!
Smiling is a key part of networking, it shows you’re passionate about the conversation and allows for your personality to come through too. Sometimes a student is so concerned with the topic of conversation that they forget to do this! Smiling will help you and the person you’re talking to feel more comfortable and again, make the networking more conversational than interrogational. Body language is, for some people, more important than the conversation. So, make sure to make enough eye contact throughout the talking to show you are listening, and avoid fiddling with anything in your hands, as this can make you seem nervous.
Remember, the employers are at the networking event to speak to people like you and help you out. They want you to ask the questions that are on your mind and will strive to answer these as best they can. So, make the most of these events, you never know what they might lead to!
Guest Article by Eleanor Wright