You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
Building relationships between peers at university is great and especially when you can collaborate your ideas and work together to get projects done. So how does this then work outside of university? Networking. If I was asked what the single most important thing post study is, I would probably say that this is the one. Networking proves yourself.
So you’re fresh out of university with all the knowhow and you’re up to date with all the new techniques and knowledge that will equip you in your chosen career. Great. Now what makes you different from all the others with the same at their disposal? Networking, I’m afraid to say, proves ever more it’s not necessarily what you know but who you know and most certainly it is a chance to get your foot in the door.
Networking is the key to a successful career and when done properly you build mutual beneficial working relationships, which in turn will provide you with plenty of opportunities.
However maintaining those relationships is paramount. I’m not going to pretend that networking is guaranteed to get you a job instantly, because it won’t. Networking requires time and commitment but once you’ve been maintaining those relationships you will start to see the gains.
Not only will these relationships create a professional platform from which you can work from but will offer new and exciting projects and opportunities. Some of which you may not have considered or would not have been open to you before. The classic idiom ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ is a simplified explanation for how networking works in the working environment.
Social media is a very useful tool for networking and you can definitely start with your friends from university and anyone that you have worked with in the past. Be invested in your career, see who the industry professionals are and read some of their blog posts, status updates or tweets.
Get yourself a linked in profile and remain active. Follow the industry professionals and comment on their posts. Make sure your responses are professional and feel ‘Human’ of course but don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, even if it differs from the opinion expressed in the content. People work with people and everyone has a different opinion. Be friendly but remember employers see everything on social media so make sure , even on your personal Facebook profile, you’re not posting anything that a potential employer (or professional networking contact) may be put off by.
Face to face networking can be daunting and the first time I attended an event it felt much more like speed dating than anything professional in my mind. Not every networking event is going to be for you but unless you attend, how are you going to know? I pride myself on being a very confident person but that said I found my first time a little daunting. I need not have worried however, as everyone was friendly. When they learned it was my first time they laughed and joked that they knew exactly how I felt, which put me at ease and I was soon myself again. Have a business card ready for these events. Something striking works but remember you want to create a professional network here. Another thing I like to do is write on my business cards. Understand that whomever you network with will probably be talking to a lot of other people that night and will receive a lot of business cards, if they successfully network. So by noting down a point of reference on your business card you are reminding that person who you are and something interesting you talked about.
Remember networking works, it can be enjoyable and even fun. You get to meet like-minded individuals and form new professional relationships. Also take note that nothing comes so easily and so long as you invest time and effort into your networking and relationships you’re bound to see something in return for all your efforts.