Networking is a term we often hear of. Some perfectly master the matter, while some do not know how and where to start. In fact, we all do networking. When we meet new people and stay in touch with them, these people become part of our ‘network’.
However, for some students networking is still difficult and the needs for networking may be diverse.
Whatever your reasons are, from finding a job to helping your project grow, let me show you step by step how to network like a professional.
Step 0: Be mentally prepared to get out of your comfort zone!
If you think that you will meet like-minded people by staying in class or at home and occasionally going out with your friends, you are wrong. What you need to do is to get away of the things you know or from your daily routine and try new things. As GLOCALs, we are given hundreds of professional opportunities from getting to live in many countries, and it would be a shame not to explore these.
Step 1: Sign-up to professional events
A great way to start networking is to sign up to different networking and professional events. Wherever you are, you will always be able to find many [free] events. These are usually found on websites such as Eventbride, Meetup and LinkedIn, but be careful not to sign up for anything: be mindful of your goals! You might have specific people you would like to meet, or people who work in a specific industry, or, maybe if you are a newbie you do not know where to start. In that case, sign up for any event that you are interested in.
Step 2: ATTEND those events
Many people sign-up to events, but most end up not going. It takes a little bit of courage to go to a networking event when the apprehension is high: what kind of people will be there? What should I wear? I do not know anyone there, who should I talk to? What will the event be like?
You will not have any answer in advance for sure, but I can tell you how it usually works.
Most networking and professional events have a very relaxed ambiance so you can wear a smart-casual outfit. Usually, the event starts with a welcoming for attendees (sometimes with gifts and a buffet) in which everyone can greet each other. Then, the event host would gather the audience to make introductions and start the session. Most events have a specific theme, but sometimes it can just be a ‘networking coffee/breakfast’ in which you talk with everyone. At the end of the event, there is always at least an hour or more for everyone to network -meaning talk to each other for a longer time, exchange business cards, etc. Depending on the events, I would recommend bringing a small notebook to take notes -sometimes it might be disrespectful to use your phone (example: on a round table open-discussion).
Step 3: Network during a professional event
You made it to the event, congratulations. Now, what should you do? Well, the answer is very easy: talk to people. It is always difficult to approach unknown people of different cultures and introduce yourself but you will never get to know them without overcoming this step. It is okay if you don’t have any business/project and you are just a student. However, if you think that somebody’s background is interesting and you want them to be part of your network, you have to make them understand that you are worthy of being part of their network as well. Highlight everything about you that makes you different from other students: you study in a tri-university program, you have a specific background, you come from abroad and travel the world, and you have specific interests.
Also, be clear about your objectives and your aspirations. Professionals are always happy to help, but there are some don’ts -such as directly asking for an internship or a job. Many professionals are tired of students who approach them just to get a position so even if that is your goal, say it subtly: you are studying, have interests in X and you are considering to do an internship in Y/Z industries.
If the professional is interested in helping you, they will ask you for more details.
When you finish talking to them, exchange your contact details! The easiest for everyone is to connect on LinkedIn.
Step 4: Keep your network
This is the hardest part. you went to some events and met interesting people, got their contact details. Next step, you have to keep the relationship. After an event, make sure you send them a message or an email to say that ‘it was a pleasure meeting [them]’, so that they remember you.
Finally, be bold in life. If you want to ask further questions to someone, do not hesitate to ask (in person or by email/message) if you can have a meeting (online or in person) with them to discuss a specific matter, or simply because you want their professional advice ‘to help enhance your career’.
I hope that this article will help you, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out!