The Art of Networking: A Comprehensive Guide for University Students

THE FUNDAMENTALS

1. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE.

  • For those getting started — Try out different networking events related to your degree or course you are interested in. List a few career pathway options (though it is best to narrow down your goal focus). What are you hoping to achieve over the next few years of your studies? Then ask yourself, who do you know and who do you need to know to help you reach that goal.
  • Understand your value proposition — How does your current skill set help others? If you have limited working experiences, it is your job to seek for experiences that will challenge you to learn and leverage your current skills.
  • Be open-minded — If you have a limited range of contacts, don’t be afraid to network with people from different backgrounds and points of view. Having a predetermined criteria of those we know we would “like” to network with, limits our exposure to people who can offer new connections and ideas.

2. THE REACH-OUT.

  • This means reaching out to someone you don’t know. Students find this intimidating, but know that in reality, most people in the world are willing to help others — it is even more special when a person gets to help a university student.
  • Personalise the message — Make it clear why you are emailing them as opposed to anyone else. This means you have considered: who this person is, their views, their interests, and what they want.
  • Add the credibility factor — If you have any mutual connections, mention it quickly. Knowing someone in common is the strongest form of social proof you can offer. If you have no real status — find a commonality, whether that be an unusual hobby, hometown etc. The goal is to go from “stranger” to being acquainted.
  • Lend a helping hand — Why should a busy person care about responding to your email? What is in it for them? If you cannot help them solve a problem, give people something they want (e.g. offer to connect them with someone they’d like to meet). Make sure it stands out and is appropriate.
  • Keep it short, simple & actionable — Do as much work for the recipient as you can and give specific bounded options. Take this as an example: “I can meet on Monday or Wednesday between 9am and 11am at (coffee place) on the (date). If that doesn’t work for you, let me know what does, and I’ll make it happen.
  • Try NOT to use a Template!!! — It is obvious.

3. THE CALL/MEETUP.

  • Don’t Answer: “Good how about you?” when asked “How are you?”
  • Do Answer: Tell an interesting story about what you recently have done or learnt — something that might be relevant to the person you are talking to. Goal is to make an impression.
  • Don’t ask: Tell me about the job.
  • Do ask: What’s something you didn’t expect after joining the job?
  • Do: “How do you recommend I proceed if I’m interested in the role?”

4. MAKING IT A GOAL.

  • Consider how many new contacts you want to make.
  • Devote 15mins each day (or X times/wk) to building and polishing your resume, making phone calls, and emailing contacts.
  • Tier 1: Friends and family members with whom you’re closest. Don’t be afraid to reach out and let them know you’re in the market for a job.
  • Tier 2: Acquaintances you know but may not interact with daily. Tap into your existing network and reach out to them in the next wave.

5. BE HUMAN.

  • Use networking, as a way for you to get to know people’s stories, NOT just to get referrals. Talk to hiring managers, recruiters, and leaders as friends.

AT UNIVERSITY

1. PROFESSORS.

  • Make a good impression — Engaging in discussions and being proactive in asking questions, will make your professor take you more seriously. Doing so will make them more inclined to write letters of recommendation for graduate school and to employers.
  • Ask for advice — Professors are invested in serving students. They are experts in the field, so don’t hesitate to reach out — whether in person or via email, to probe in and ask for advice. You never know which professor will end up being the professor who changes your life’s trajectory.

2. PEERS.

  • Engage in your online course — Try getting to know students during tutorials, lectures or discussion boards, and craft thoughtful responses to them. You will stand out as someone who is truly interested and engaging while building relationships with your peers.
  • Set up study group sessions — Just because you’re taking courses virtually doesn’t mean you can’t set up group study sessions before exams! Find a time that works with everyone and join a video call from the comfort of your own home. Speaking over video will help you get a better sense of who they are and connect with them in real-time.
  • Put yourself out there — Goal is to connect on social media, Linkedin and most importantly (if possible), IN REAL LIFE!

3. CAREER FAIRS.

  • Go explore — Attend any career-related fairs and networking events — make the most out of these opportunities given to you at university. The goal here is to get yourself familiarised with these types of events, even though you may not necessarily be trying to get an internship. Exploring a range of career options that truly interest you and practice talking to industry representatives is the way to start.

OUTSIDE UNIVERSITY

1. INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS.

  • Request for shadowing opportunities — If you are passionate about a cause, consider reaching out to ask if you can volunteer to work for them. Shadowing is a great way to gain insight into the work environment and culture. Build a rapport and ask more in-depth questions about what it takes to succeed in the industry, and if they know of any upcoming opportunities.
  • Use them as a source on your next project — If you’re writing a research paper that is beyond what you already know, what better source of insight and information can you get, by reaching out to an industry professional. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview!

2. YOUR IMMEDIATE CIRCLE.

  • Ask your existing network — Reach out to friends and family to see if they know of anyone who may be good for you to connect with. You may be surprised by the valuable connection they may bring to you now or down the road.

AT NETWORKING EVENTS (APPLIES TO ONLINE)

1. BEFORE.

  • Reviewing — Do some research on the organisations that will be at the event, noting down ones you are most interested in pursuing. Prepare a list of questions focusing on mission, culture, and skills valued.
  • Ask yourself this — Who are you? What’s going on in your student life right now? What do you want? Why would you be a good fit? Give them some thought and rehearse in advance, but make sure you don’t sound scripted.
  • Other things to note — Key people at the event, what kinds of opportunities that company are looking for or recent events in their industries — this gives you material for conversation starters. The key here is to identify topics that could be relevant and interesting both for the people you meet and for you.
  • Update your resume — Make sure that it highlights your most marketable skills. For virtual events, save your resume as a PDF to ensure a smoother upload.
  • Update LinkedIn status regularly — Stay on your network’s radar by detailing your recent accomplishments or sharing what you have learnt, what you are working on and more.
  • Dress in “smart” casual — E.g. go for neutrals or monotones, dress pants, skirts, button-down long sleeve shirts.
  • Check Technology — For virtual events, test internet reception, webcam, and microphone quality. Have backup options.

2. DURING.

  • Listen to “Understand” — not to reply.
  • Open body language — Smile, make eye contact, sit straight. Avoid crossing arms and fidgeting.
  • Refer to the key questions you have prepared beforehand — The goal is to slowly turn a conversation toward the topic of “you”.
  • Mind verbal language — Avoid using slang or acronyms (ex. LOL, UR) when speaking — this includes emoticons in your chats.
  • Speak slowly, but with confidence
  • Have a notebook and pen — Jot down notes and contact information of the company representatives that you talk to.
  • Express gratitude — Focus your mind on aspects in your life that you are grateful for — your friendships, family, experiences and prime yourself with curiosity. One of the few qualities that is universally liked and appreciated is positive energy :)

3. AFTER.

  • Send a thank-you email — Use the opportunity to reiterate what your background and skills can bring to the table. Remember to also attach your resume.
  • Connect on LinkedIn!
  • Stay engaged — Set up calls and attend live events to keep yourself engaged with the organisation. Find an article based related to the organisation’s industry or on what you discussed during the event and send that along with your email. This shows that you are genuinely interested in their work and actually paid attention.

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Real Skills Education

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Offering professional development and a mission to cultivate self-sufficient and confident young individuals who in turn will lead and teach future generations.

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