Networking is one of those words that is scary, mainly because we don’t know what it means. Most people imagine it means going up to strangers, selling yourself ad asking for a job, which is understandably intimidating. While that might be one way to do it, that’s not really what we mean when we say networking.
Everyone has a network, and it includes everyone you work with, sure, but also everyone on your course, friends, family; literally, everyone you know is part of your network. Networking really means making those connections, making sure that everyone in your network knows what you do, what you are good at, and what you are looking for when it comes to a job.
A good example might be someone who is part of a student society. They’re going to meet lots of people through that society, whether it’s student radio, the Pokémon society, it doesn’t matter. Who knows what these people will then go on to do?
Further down the line, they might be in a position to help you get an interview or vice versa. They can only do that if they know what you do, and what you’re looking for. That’s the heart of networking. Keeping those connections, making sure people know what you want, AND making sure you help other people where you can – networking is a two-way street. It shouldn’t always be about helping you get a job, and we’d go further and say, at least at first, it shouldn’t be about that.
Now, how can this help you practically? Well, we’ll use LinkedIn as an example of how you can use this proactively.
First, identify a few companies that you’d like to work for. If you’re stuck, use the google maps trick (search for companies in your field on Google, then switch to maps) to build up a target list. Next, find their company page on LinkedIn. Then click into the employees’ section and have a look around. Find someone you’d like to have a chat with. Remember, at this point, we’re not asking for a job, just a conversation.
A good way to go about this is to explain your current situation and that you’re really interested in working in their industry. Then just ask for a quick conversation to see if you can pick their brain/to ask their advice on what you can be doing to maximise your chances.
Doing it this way is much better; it’s a softer approach that’s more likely to get a response, and you’re asking for something that’s easy for them to give. Plus, it makes them feel good, as someone is coming to them for advice. You would be surprised how many people are open to this kind of conversation. It’s a great way of making connections, and should you ever come up for an interview with them, they will already recognise you, which will help you stand out.