How to navigate the rights and wrongs of networking
Updated: Jan 26
A strong network is an incredible powerful tool that can be key to a successful career, however it's not so easy to get right. Networking is a catalytic tool for transformation and experts who have managed to master the art talk of the benefits beyond professional portfolio building. To remain close to the opportunities in this uncharted territory, it would be wise for students to build their network. This would make sure that when we go back into the world we are in the best position to elevate our careers and foster our personal growth.
Why do we network?
Not only is networking good for your professional prospects, it also opens you up to fresh ideas along the way. Your network can be the most important source of new perspective from fresh lenses that end up aiding your role in life, at university or work. Networking intentionally builds confidence, which in this time is essential for future job prospects. When you network, you are continually putting yourself out there and building invaluable social skills and the self-confidence we all need a bit more of.
Of course, the main point of networking is to build and nurture your professional relationships, but I have found that the most long-lasting and meaningful connections develop from the networking process. It's exactly how I came across the fellow founders of EntreNeo and ended up on this exciting journey.
Leading up to the launch of EntreNeo, I reached out to anyone, professional to student, and through trial and error have shortlisted the best ways to effectively network.
I would say being an international student in the UK (or anywhere) you are forced to develop these networking skills, because simply you are so out of your comfort zone and in a totally foreign environment. The most impactful connections have simply come at the most unexpected time, a recent being during a walk to the local coffee store. Who would have thought a conversation about coffee could lead to meeting your next employer. I became involved with The Girls International Development Network based off a Facebook post, where we now we share the power of networking to over 550 members worldwide! For all students alike, you just need to know what you want, and always be open to any opportunities.
COVID-19 has altered the traditional 'coffeehouse' networking, but fortunately technology has made it more accessible than ever.
You don't need to start big, networking can be a daunting feat but to start small is the best way forward. Volunteering in your passion is a good first start, joining societies, and attending talks are excellent ways to put yourself out there and into the field that best sparks your interest. After all, the more you venture into your chosen field, the more you'll network with the right people that could elevate your career and find connections that you may have never encountered before. If you think the chance of you receiving a response is unlikely, you may be surprised - people are more receptive than you originally think.
For me, I enjoy networking to find ideas that I may not have otherwise thought of. Networking is about co-creating knowledge, and the dynamics to do so are created by sharing perspectives, expressing opinions, and the many interpretations of the world. Be open to the diverse range of thought, universities are a hub for this, and even though all of us may not be on campus we can still exchange stimulating discussion through various platforms.
The better we communicate, the better we connect. Listening to people, without intention of control or domination, is a way to better achieve your networking and your creativity. Julian Treasure explores this in his Ted Talk, and explores how we are 'losing our listening' in a world that is getting louder. The best and most innovative solution include a variety of world perspectives, with no voice pushed out or marginalised.
As much as networking is described as a tool, it's really finding mutually beneficial relationships built on trust and respect. It's a two way street, and if you want to succeed you should not think about your own personal agenda when networking. It's not only about finding out what someone can do for you, but also what you can do for them. I would say that this is the most important aspect of this short list, because people can work out faster than you may think if you're genuine or not. You want to secure collaboration and trust by showing how you can be reliable and what you can bring to the table. So ... To achieve mutual respect means seeking connectedness and relatedness without merging.
Obviously, when you are new to the game you may think you do not have much of interest for professionals; this is far from the case. The prospect of a fresh perspective and insights into student debate can be highly valued by employers and business leaders.
It we want to redesign our economy to be more inclusive after this pandemic, networking ensures we can do it together, authentically, and builds the skills for the future workforce to guarantee its longevity. Our ambition with EntreNeo is to be that platform that allows students to come together, through networking, to create meaningful connections that build the self-confidence and professional skills to thrive in the workplace we want to see.