Careers adviser Amanda Norman shares some pearls of wisdom on networking
Networking is a powerful tool for career progression – especially in the creative industries, where companies may not have large budgets for recruitment. Here are some takeaway points from my talk on Networking in the Creative Industries and Not-For-Profit sectors…
There is a distinction between formal and informal networking
Careers events and panels are examples of formal networking environments, where it is totally acceptable, and expected, that you’ll be making efforts to network and learn about the attendees’ roles and work background. In this way, there’s no need to view networking as an awkward or showy thing to be doing – it’s what our events are designed for!
Think about the difference between good and bad networking
What good networking looks like: you’re prepared – you’ve done your research; you are open and interested in the person you’re speaking to; you are having a balanced conversation, taking turns to speak and ask questions; you are generous with your time, but don’t take up too much of theirs; you are honest in your responses; and you follow-up (more on this later!)
What bad networking looks like: you are pushy and ask difficult questions; you dominate the conversation and come across as selfish; you are dishonest; you are too selective in who you’ll speak with; you don’t make an effort to remember what the person has said; you never make an effort to follow-up.
There are little things you can do which will make you stand out from the crowd…
Preparation is key. Do your research and have a couple of questions in your back pocket for the employers you’re interested in (and a few reserves which are applicable to all!) – this will help you to feel confident.
Think about your body language, and adjust it as you enter the event. Shoulders back, open posture (not crossed arms), and smile – this will also help you to relax!
Ending the conversation can be the trickiest part of networking: don’t be abrupt, but if you need to move on, perhaps begin by saying it’s been fantastic meeting the person, and that you’re off to get a drink or to let them chat to others.
Being ‘nice’ goes a long way – find ways to be genuinely kind and helpful during your networking time. This could involve scanning the room and noticing someone on a stand with no one talking to them, and striking up a conversation with them while you have a moment. It could also involve offering an exhibitor help in packing away their stand. Little things like this can make an excellent impression.
Follow-up! Thanking a person for their time and insights via email or LinkedIn can make a great impression. Sometimes a written note or small thank you card can show you genuinely got something out of the discussion and are grateful for their time.
And beyond events, there are many other ways to network
Think of the networks you already have – your family, friends, and their connections may be able to put you in touch with someone they know in the industry you’re interested in.
You don’t have to speak to people in person, always, to network effectively. Emailing or messaging someone on LinkedIn, with a carefully crafted message, can be a great start. You can also use the Careers Service’s networking database, GradLink, to connect with Cambridge alumni in the sector you want to get into.
For more advice on networking, see the Careers Service’s website