Before starting Business School, I was sceptical of the term “networking.” When I thought of the word, images of awkward tiny circles filled with eager students trying to push their CVs onto recruiters came to my mind. Put me into a room full of strangers, and I would have no problem talking to anyone…but as soon as the situation was labelled “networking,” and everyone around me was in a suit and tie, I became anxious. Based on my experiences networking as an undergraduate, I felt nervous about the prospect of more networking in Business School.
However, since the Careers Service’s “How to Network” module in the fall to my most recent employer event, I have started to understand the term differently. Now I think about networking as building, creating, and developing professional connections and relationships throughout a career–as opposed to a contest of seeing who can collect the most business cards. With my new understanding, I feel more comfortable and better equipped to make the most out of networking opportunities.
Based on my networking experiences over the past 10 months at Imperial, here are my top 10 tips for effective networking:
- Before an employer event, research the speakers (LinkedIn, company profiles, etc.), company, opportunities, and any key industry trends. Knowing something about the subject area they will be speaking about will help you discuss the topic more confidently and ask intelligent questions.
- Have a pen and paper on hand to take notes during or after an event. Often, company PowerPoints are not published online but contain helpful information for applications.
- Be positive (i.e. smile, be engaged/enthusiastic, maintain eye contact, refrain from sighing or yawning, keep your arms uncrossed, and don’t criticise the speaker, food, or anything about the event)
- Practice your elevator pitch before an event but don’t feel like you always have to repeat it to recruiters…it’s important to keep the conversation feeling natural.
- Always bring your personalised Imperial business cards to events (hint: this helps recruiters remember your name).
- Plan how you will start and leave a conversation with recruiters—your entry and exit are very important! This can be as simple as saying how wonderful it was to talk to company representatives and then wishing them a good evening.
- Follow up after an event with a concise “thank you” email to company representatives that you met. This could lead to potential career opportunities that are not being widely advertised…
- Remember that networking (but really any recruiting process) is just as much about you deciding whether you would enjoy working at a specific company as it is them deciding whether you would be a good fit there.
- Ask Careers Services about what resources are available to help you network. They will be sure to point you in the direction of the Imperial College Business School Alumni group on LinkedIn, informational interviewing, and much more!
- Networking is a career-long process. The best networkers regularly keep in touch with their contacts and realise that the quality of relationships is more important than the quantity.
Although not every conversation results in a job, research indicates that 60-80% of jobs are found via networking. Regardless of the actual percentage, it is clear that establishing relationships with a range of people is key to helping you find the perfect job for your unique background, skill sets, and interests. Like everything else, practise makes perfect so start building these relationships and find your inner networker today!