If you are looking for a graduate job, networking is one of the best ways to meet employers. To make the most out of one of these events, make sure you plan ahead: have a goal in mind, bring business cards and prepare a few questions.
People who attend networking events are usually looking for something. This could be a new job or new employees. Although some people tend to find these events awkward and occasionally a little fake, these events can be a great way to make some useful connections if you go in with the right attitude.
The first thing to remember is that it’s not just about helping yourself, but also helping others. You need to listen to conversations, ask the right questions and meet a lot of people. If you’re about to attend your first networking event, then here are some tips to get you started.
1. Have a goal
Walking into a room full of people you don’t can be a little nerve-wracking, so make sure you have an idea of what you want to achieve before you attend. It could be that you want to speak to three graduate employers and get their cards. Or you might want to find out about at least one graduate programme you haven’t heard about before.
2. Make a good impression
When attending these events, it’s important that you are dressed to impress. This could be the first time your employer sees you so you want to look like a potential employee. Make sure you feel confident, so pick an outfit that makes you feel great, like a smart jacket you’ve not had the right occasion to wear or a new pair of shoes.
3. Bring business cards
Bring far more than you could ever need, just in case. There’s nothing more awkward that realising that you’ve run out of cards when you meet someone really interesting. Make sure you keep your cards in a proper wallet so they look neat when you are handing them over to the person you really want to impress.
4. Start with a great introduction
Make sure that you greet people with a smile and a firm handshake, letting them know your name and listening carefully so you remember theirs, which is easier said than done when you are meeting someone for the first time.
5. Listen then speak
You might feel like you should launch into your prepared elevator speech, but it’s always best to let the other person talk first. That way you can find out more about why they are here and how you could help them. If you ask the questions first, when it’s time to impress a potential employer they will be totally focused on what you have to say rather than thinking about what they want to say.
6. Show that you’re interested
By preparing a few questions beforehand you can really show that you are interested in the job and keen to work with the company. Ask the person about their background and the work that they do now. Ask open questions such as ‘What do you like about working at this company?’ and ‘What current projects are you working on’ so that they can’t give yes and no answers.
7. Use an elevator pitch
When it comes to sharing a bit more about yourself, keep it short. An elevator pitch lasts only a few sentences and really focuses on the highlights. Don’t fill it with job-related jargon – talk in your own voice about your achievements.
8. Take notes
You’ll be speaking to a lot of people in one evening and it can be hard to remember all the details after the event. Every so often take a short break and sit down to write a few notes. This will make following up with people a lot easier the next day.
9. Follow up
After the event make sure that you get in touch with the people that you met. Send emails remind the person how you met and remind them of a conversation point you had, that way they can place you. LinkedIn is a great tool for getting in touch with people, and you can personalise your invite to make sure you make an impact.