How to network on your professional training year

Whilst on placement, you will come into contact with professionals at all different levels within your organisation, as well as external companies. Students who have taken the opportunity to network have said they have gained good business contacts who have offered support, and in some case, jobs after their placement.

Cartoon of groups of people networking with coloured speech bubbles

Networking can sound daunting, and can take place at any time or any place – on a training course, at the coffee machine, at a conference. It may help if you rephrase networking to “a conservation in a business environment”.  There are common worries around fear of failure or judgement so here are some tips to help you:

  • Introduce yourself with “Hi”, “How are you?” Don’t be afraid to ask them a question about their career “What do you do?”, “What projects are you working on?”. If they work in your organisation, take time to research them so you can ask a few interesting questions.
  • Ask them for help/opinions/advice – asking someone for advice is not only a great way to get them talking, they’re likely to open up to you more when you show them you’re genuinely interested in their opinion and experiences.
  • Tell them about yourself and what your business interests are – a business relationship is reciprocal and you can exchange information and ideas
  • Research can help build confidence – take the time to check a person’s profile on LinkedIn/ company’s website before you approach them. Having a few conversations starters and discussion topics at the ready will help you feel more confident and relaxed going into the conversation.
  • Ask for a business card, and write down a few notes about the person you have just met. To make a positive impact after meeting, you could send them a tailored LinkedIn request.
  • Be sociable at any company events – even if you only stay for a short while, you will get the chance to meet with people in other Departments with the organisation and staff at all levels

Networking may not come easily to you, but actually it doesn’t come easily to many people at all. For everyone, except a very, very few, it’s an effort and nearly always uncomfortable for the first half an hour or so. So take a deep breath, smile and throw yourself into it as quickly as possible. Remember everyone is just a human being, like you, and you are just as worthy and have just as many important things to say. The first hurdle of approaching people is often the hardest and getting over it is just practice.

Some good articles on Networking including advice from employers can be found on Surrey Pathfinder.