It can be daunting to dive headfirst into networking events when you’re a student, especially if you haven’t had much experience. There are very few students who have a natural ability to network, but with the right preparation and practice, anybody can learn the skills required to boost your profile at the right occasions which, in turn, can be an invaluable aid when it comes to job searching during and after your degree.
A staggering 60% of respondents to a recent American survey had referred a friend or contact to their current employers, with 35% of those surveyed having received their current job through their professional or personal network. Fortunately, we’re on hand in order to provide some basic networking event tips for students to help you start networking like a pro at career fairs, insight days, and other social gatherings, throughout your academic career and beyond
Networking can often feel like a dirty word, and studies have shown that people often consider themselves to have been ‘dirtied’ by engaging in it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than it being a means to an end, consider networking as a valuable experience in and of itself. Not only do you get to meet people who have interesting and varied life experiences from whom you can learn a great deal, but it’s also an opportunity to practice vital soft skills during your student years which can make all the difference once you start attending job interviews.
So, without further ado, here are our 11 networking event tips for students:
1. Treat every event as a networking event.
From lectures and seminars to meals and parties, every instance where you spend time with other students or have the opportunity to meet new people is a perfect time to practice your networking skills.
Remember that the first steps of networking as a student is purely to meet new contacts. You never know which of your fellow students are going to go on and excel in a field that you find fascinating, nor which of your lecturers have had experiences from which you can learn. Once you understand that anybody can be a useful addition to your network, meeting people changes from a chore to an opportunity.
The vast majority of people spend most of their time at events talking to people they already know, even if they go with the explicit intention of meeting new people, so if you’re able to make even one new contact at every event you attend, your network will grow at an exponential rate.
2. Practice and preparation prevents piss poor performance.
Although it sounds like a cliché, it’s worth practising your soft skills with friends, family, or even in front of the mirror!
Small details like a friendly demeanour, maintaining eye contact, and a firm handshake can make all the difference to those vital first impressions according to Psychology Today. Practising these can help you figure out where you can improve. Although social skills are widely considered to be innate, with enough practice and preparation anybody can become a master at leaving a great first impression.
Signing up for our interview coaching sessions will not only help you to nail the art and the science of interviews. They have been designed to teach you how to present yourself in a professional manner, which will come in handy when you attend networking events. Our interview coaching is suitable for students who are keen to get a job before graduation, ambitious graduates and career changers.
3. Keep your online profile up to date.
As we all know, a huge amount of our social lives is conducted through the prism of social media. There’s no point in cultivating excellent networks of professionals and students alike if you don’t have the online profile to back up your face-to-face skills.
Whilst obviously an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is very important for professional connections, it is vital to cultivate a professional social media personality overall.
Check out our blog posts on how to make recruiter-friendly social media profiles and how to boost your online profile. These are excellent resources if you’re unsure where to start.
4. Be genuine, be yourself.
One of the words that comes up the most when discussing networking is ‘inauthenticity.’
Many people assume that the best approach to meeting people is to take the scattergun approach – littering networking events with business cards and trying to reach as many people as possible. But the truth is that one authentic connection is worth twenty inauthentic ones.
As mentioned above, focus on making one genuine connection at each event rather than making as many connections as possible.
Once you’ve met a few people, your social network will start to snowball as your connections can introduce you to others, and vouch for you. Those who attempt to meet twenty people in one night will often end up not growing their network at all.
5. Don’t hard sell – student networking is for the long run.
Too often, students assume that networking is about getting your name out there, proving your ability, and showcasing your talents to recruiters.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Networking as a student is about long term investment in people who can help you grow as an individual, and who may be able to help you with your career later in life.
Most importantly, networking is an opportunity to listen to others. Not only do people love talking about themselves (who doesn’t?) but listening is the only way you can learn. From conversations over coffee with professors or industry specialists to casual hangouts with fellow students, remember the old maxim that you have two ears and one mouth, so ensure that you listen twice as much as you talk.
6. Don’t pass up opportunities to build skills.
University is an excellent time to build up a variety of skills. Whilst your studies should obviously come first, it would be a shame to miss out on the plethora of options for cultivating your skills and hobbies.
Join any and all clubs and societies that interest you, from having a kick-about with a 5-a-side team to joining the model UN, the wide array of different societies provide you with an opportunity to network amongst people who have similar interests to you.
Furthermore, whilst at university, you have a golden chance to apply for summer internships which can help you gain those professional contacts which are so vital for after your studies.
7. Go to networking events.
Whilst this may sound like a no-brainer, universities host excellent career-oriented networking events where you will have the chance to meet with some of the brightest minds and leading lights, and plenty of recruiters, in more-or-less any industry of your choice.
Whilst the vast majority of your networking will take place outside of these specialised events, once you’re confident in your abilities these events can be a gold mine for growing your network, especially with an eye to your time post-university.
Many students are unaware of this, but recruiters build up a pipeline of students who they deem suitable for their graduate schemes and jobs.
In order to achieve this, recruiters engage with students in many different ways including:
- Being active on social media, particularly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Visiting universities to give talks and attending career fairs on campus.
- Hosting events at their offices such as open days and insight evenings
- Hosting webinars online
Whilst you are at university, it is wise to take every opportunity you can to engage with graduate recruiters and your future potential employers.
A great networking event tip for students and graduates who are hoping to land a graduate job is to give employers your contact information. Once they have your email address and add you to their talent pool, they’ll keep you up to date with opportunities such as internships, placements and graduate roles.
Companies that advertise networking event opportunities for students
- Bright Network. Bright Network has partnered with 300+ top employers who hire graduates every year. They host several events each year that give students and graduates the opportunity to network with employers. Check out the Bright Network events page, and consider becoming a Bright Network member. Also, read their post on how to network at careers fairs.
- PwC student careers. PwC is one of the top graduate employers. They regularly host events to help students and graduates to make informed career decisions. They hold networking events in their offices nationwide, virtually via webinars, and on campus. Even if you do not wish to pursue a career in the professional services sector, the advice and tips you’ll get from their recruiters will be useful. Check out PwC’s networking events for students.
8. Reach out
Do not be afraid to contact people who you haven’t met yet would like to speak to. Many professors and industry specialists are more than happy to make the time to go for a coffee to talk to you about their experiences, especially if you offer to buy the drinks!
Prepare some questions about their company and experiences before meeting up with them, but don’t be afraid to go off-script and ask them to elaborate on details that interest you. Remember to apply the other tips from this list, in maintaining a strong first impression and listening more than talking.
9. Follow up.
Once you have met somebody, either at an event or after reaching out to them, it is vitally important to send follow-up messages to maintain your connection with them. A simple email to thank them for their time, along with a little bit about what you learnt from spending time with them, can make all the difference to how your contacts think about you, and how willing they will be to share their knowledge and experiences with you further down the line.
Top networking event tip for students: Be sure to maintain the relationships that you have gained through networking. Follow them on social media and send them a message every now and again to see how they are doing.
10. Use university career resources.
Universities career centres can be useful for figuring out what kind of career you would like once you finish. Make it a priority to visit the career centre at your university and talk to those who work there as soon as possible.
Expanding your network to the support staff, especially in the career centre, can offer you an invaluable resource for when you start applying for jobs in your last year.
You may even be able to network with some of your university’s alumni, who may work in the industries or companies you are interested in.
11. Give a speech.
For those of you who are less socially confident, a great way to push yourself and learn how to better engage with people is to really put yourself out there and offer to give a speech or talk at an event.
Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to make yourself known to a bunch of new people, but it can help you build the skills required to then have those follow-up coffees with the key individuals who you’d like to add to your ever-growing network. Trust me, once you’ve given a speech to 100 people, it’s never quite as daunting to have a one-on-one!
If you are interested in developing your public speaking skills, check out Toastmasters International. By joining your local Toastmasters community, you’ll gain the opportunity to develop your public speaking and communication skills in a friendly and non-judgmental environment.
Networking event tips for students: Summary.
We hope that you have found our post about networking tips for students useful. If you are hoping to land a graduate-level job, it is important that you network as much as possible.
It’s not just about who you know in life, but more about who you get to know! So be proactive, and seek out networking opportunities whilst you are a university student.
If you enjoyed this post on networking event tips for students, you may also be interested in this post about completing an internship whilst you are at university. In this post, we collaborated with Springpod to bring you some expert insights.
Before you go, be sure to check out The Student Book. It was written by the founder of Graduate Coach and contains everything you need to know to get the job you really want!