What is networking?

Networking for International Students

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You might have heard about networking and how important it can be in helping individuals achieve their professional and personal goals.  But what exactly is it? Networking is the idea that through the personal connections we make with individuals we encounter we can develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Remember networking is not just about what we can get from other people, just as important is how we can help them.

What are the potential benefits of networking?

Networking is all about making contacts.  Making contacts can improve your employability.  The “graduate jobs formula” below illustrates the impact that making contacts could have on improving your employability.

Employability = Qualifications + Work Experience + Skills x Contacts (Redmond, 2010)

Your contacts could help you with:

Insider info; want to impress an employer with your commercial awareness? Having an employee of a company you are targeting for job applications as a contact could provide real insights unavailable elsewhere.

Heads up on upcoming opportunities; often employees of a company will know about opportunities for work and work experience before they are advertised.

A good word in the right ear; making an application? Want to increase the chance of being shortlisted for interview?  Using contacts within the company to provide recommendations for you could make a difference.

Recommendations and endorsements (LinkedIn); LinkedIn allows you to collect recommendations that are much like references and also gives the opportunity for other people to endorse the skills you have listed in your profile.  Using your contacts in this way can help you to develop a more impressive online profile.

Practical help; there are numerous ways in which your contacts can support you with practical help.  For example, to arrange work experience or advice about a tricky application question.  Consider your network, what practical help could these individuals offer you?

References; want a great reference? You could ask a contact in your network.

Personal Introductions; sometimes it’s not the people you know, but the people that they know that can help you.  Your contacts can be helpful in supporting you to develop your network.  Maybe they can’t help you but they know someone who can?

Six Degrees of Separation– Frigyes Karinthy (1929)

The theory that because we are all linked by chains of acquaintances that we are all just six introductions away from anyone else on the planet!

“Proof! Just six degrees of separation between us

After checking 30 billion electronic messages, Microsoft researchers say the theory stands up” – The Observer, 2008.

Consider…what do you want to achieve by networking?

Networking, the basics

A good general rule for networking is to treat every encounter with someone as an opportunity to create a new contact.  Consider who you have in your network at the moment (everyone has one), your family, friends and acquaintances.  This is the starting point from which you can build.

Do not be passive, identify and seek out opportunities to grow your network; for example, your University Careers Fair and employer presentations (to network with graduate employers), social events (to network with your peers).  Check if your University offer networking training or opportunities to meet with Alumni or employers.

Think about the positive impression you want to make; effective impression management can be the key to creating new contacts.  The following are viewed as good practice in terms of meeting new people;

Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people

Principle 2: Smile!

Principle 3: Remember their name

Principle 4: Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves

Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

Principle 6: Make the other person feel important.  Do it sincerely.

(Carnegie, 2006)

Networking via social networks

LinkedIn is an online professional networking tool and available in over 200 countries worldwide, with over 450 million members.  This makes it the world’s largest professional network on the internet.  It is a great way to not only make new contacts but also to maintain and manage your existing network.

Check if your University offers LinkedIn workshops or training.

To sign up to LinkedIn visit: https://gb.linkedin.com/

For an introduction to LinkedIn and how it can used visit: http://tinyurl.com/m9whhq7

For a more detailed guide to LinkedIn visit: https://university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students

Top tip:  you will usually need an email address to connect with someone through LinkedIn.  Ask people you meet in person (that you would like to add to your network) if they would connect with you via LinkedIn and if so, ask for their email address!

References:

Carnegie, D. (2006). How to Win Friends and Influence People. London: Vermillion.

Redmond, P. (2010). The Graduate Jobs Formula. Surrey: Trotman Publishing.

Ben Simkins, Careers Adviser, Keele University

5 thoughts on “What is networking?”

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