After attending the Summer Recruitment Fair, which saw 60+ employers visiting campus for one of the biggest careers events of the year, second-year politics student Anna Ouston shares her advice for effective networking at events.
“Networking is something that is really important for your career and your life after you graduate, and building up these connections before you leave University will really help you when you do. There are lots of opportunities to network throughout your time at University, especially at careers events like careers fairs. I am going to give you my five top tips for how to make the most of these careers events, and how to network most efficiently.
Remember that you are just talking to another human
I think as students we sometimes have a tendency to view adults and people in positions of authority as somehow different to ourselves. All our lives through school, these people were seen as authority figures and I think this is something that sticks with us even when we are at University and we have a better relationship with our lecturers and people in positions of power. However, it can still be very intimidating approaching people in positions of power and authority.
What I try to do is to remember that the person you’re talking to, at the end of the day, is a human. And also, that you are an adult. You are not a child being sent to talk to a teacher at school, you are an adult having a conversation with another adult as equals. I think the fact that I approach people in this way, makes me appear a lot more confident, and also more comfortable. The more comfortable you feel the easier it will be for the conversation to flow and the more you will be able to build a rapport with the person you’re networking with.
Now I know this is some advice that you may have received before, you’ve probably been told to ‘stand out’ and ‘be memorable’ but probably nobody has ever told you how.
My main advice to being memorable is to be yourself, which may sound cliché but it’s honestly true. The professionals who work these types of events meet so many people and see so many faces all in one day. The people they are going to remember are the ones who are themselves, because I think people being genuine and having a genuine conversation is really memorable. This links into my last point, about being confident and remembering that the person you’re talking to – is just that, a person.
Be prepared to ask questions
It’s also about asking questions. If you stand there awkwardly, don’t make eye contact, don’t ask questions, and don’t respond to what’s being said to you, you’re not going to be memorable. That may sound harsh, as I know a lot of people struggle with being shy, but it’s true. You need to try and muster as much courage as you can, because the more confident and chatty you are, the more they will remember you.
— Surrey Careers (@careerssurrey) May 10, 2017
Having some prepared questions to ask is a good idea if you’re worried about not being able to think of something at the time when you’re under pressure. It’s a good idea to also look at who is going to be at the Fair before you go so you can prepare some conversation topics for specific stands. Having some prepared ideas might help you to feel more relaxed in going and having a conversation with someone, which again will help for your natural personality to shine through.
Remember what you’re passionate about
The more passionate you are about a job or a career area, the more likely it is going to be that you will feel more confident discussing it, and the more you will speak with life and excitement. It’s easy to see when people are passionate about an area, and it’s one of the key personality traits that employers really look for.
Sometimes when you attend these big careers fairs, it can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of choice and it’s easy to lose focus about what you actually care about and what area of work you’re truly passionate about working for. Try to focus your time on areas that you are passionate about. Do some research prior to the event, and learn more about the companies that you’re especially interested in. Having this extra knowledge will help you to come across as even more passionate, as you’ll be able to have a really well informed conversation about the area you are thinking about going into.
The people who work these events come from many different areas of work and many different companies, and meeting people who are as passionate as they are about their area is something that’s going to help you to stand out from a crowd of faces they would have met that day.
My final piece of advice is to enjoy yourself. The opportunities for networking that we receive at University are invaluable experiences that will help prepare you for future interviews and future jobs, so make the most of them. Enjoy yourself, smile, and remember that at the end of the day the person you’re talking to is a person just like you, and there is nothing to be scared about.
The Employability & Careers Centre provides a varied and comprehensive careers guidance, information and vacancy services to all University of Surrey Students, from first to final year undergraduates and postgraduates, and to recent Alumni. Discover more about what is on offer and how we can support you via our website.