Networking in the UK when you lack confidence in your English-language skills

Networking is oft-cited as the most effective way to find a job.  Your university careers service will probably have resources on how to do this. However, as an international student, networking with people in the UK can seem daunting regardless of how much you practise your English language skills. The following activities can help:

1) Identify your specific worries

Filling out the table below will help you identify each of your specific worries so you can start to address each:

Situation you are worried about How does this make you feel? What emotions do you experience? What thoughts go through your mind? How does this affect your behaviour?
E.g.Speaking to new people in English E.g. Scared E.g. I will say something wrong. I will make a bad impression. E.g.I won’t speak to anyone new in English
E.g. Not completing my LinkedIn profile to a good enough standard because of my lack of writing skills. E.g. Embarrassed, hurt E.g. People will laugh at or criticise my profile E.g. I won’t use LinkedIn

It is natural to want to avoid situations that might cause negative emotions. However, doing so means negative thoughts are as bad as we anticipate.

2) Test the validity of your beliefs and thoughts.

Using the list above  –

  • For each situation, and think of examples of similar activities that would be less stressful. For example, if you are worried about speaking to someone new in English in a networking setting, you could consider; speaking to students on your course that you don’t know; networking with people who speak your native-language; practising speaking in professional English with a member of the Careers Network; practise asking questions you might ask in the mirror.
  • Give each situation a score out of 100 as to how anxious it makes you feel.
  • Reorganise the list by score, i.e. highest score at the top.
  • Make a plan to do something that ‘exposes’ you to the situation with the lowest score, to test if your beliefs and thoughts are about are correct.
  • Before you undertake any actions, it may help to consider the following questions:
    • How much do you believe this thought? (0-100%)
    • What do you think will actually happen? How likely do you think this is to happen? (0-100%)
    • What else might happen? How likely do you think this is to happen? (0-100%)
    • What may stop you from completing this activity?
    • How can you overcome these potential difficulties?
  • Try the activity, and reflect on what happened. How does this compare to what you predicted? What are the consequences of what happened? How did you feel at the end compared to the beginning?
    • For example, if you felt you would be embarrassed practising networking questions, did you actually feel embarrassed once you got into it? If you did feel embarrassed, did the other person notice or react negatively?
  • As you feel more confident in an activity, repeat the process for the next item on the list.

By doing these activities, your beliefs and thoughts may change in a positive way. If they don’t, there are two other options to consider:

3) Inference Chaining

This technique basically explores how bad something might be. At the most basic level, this entails repeatedly asking ‘what would then happen?’. For example, feeling embarrassed by ‘messing up’ a networking opportunity –

I didn’t create a good impression and feel I failed.
What would then happen? That person won’t help me in the future.
What would then happen? They will probably forget about it eventually. I will get over it eventually too.
What would then happen? It doesn’t affect me speaking to people at other companies, and now I’ve tried once I know how to improve next time.
What would then happen? I’ll find other people to speak to, and will practise where I need to improve so I am more confident next time. Maybe I will read the Careers Network resources to help me prepare more thoroughly.

Following this will help you keep events in perspective and also identify what you need to do to improve next time.

4) Rewards

Networking can be tiring, so schedule into do something fun after you’ve tried some networking activities – regardless of how good or bad they’ve gone. This will help your wellbeing and motivation.

Christian Jameson-Warren, Loughborough University

What to do with the last 4 months of your visa

What to do with the last 4 months of your visa

After graduation, you may have some time left in the UK before your visa expires. If you are wondering how to best use this time, consider developing your career capital. Career capital is anything that puts you in a better position in your career, such as skills, connections, experience, credentials and so on. Below are some activities you can undertake to help with this – and remember, you can discuss any of the below with the Careers Network.

Research what skills employers want now and in the future – and make a plan to upskill

Even if you have a job lined up, researching labour market information (LMI) to understand predicted trends can help you better understand how to focus your professional development and stand out to prospective employers. For example, if analytics is an increasingly required skill in your sector, you could complete some online professional courses to further develop your skills in this area.

You can learn about skill needs by reading job and sector profiles on CN website, Prospects, Targetjobs, reading industry journals and reviewing job adverts for common requirements.

There are online resources for developing professional skills such as, FutureLearn,, Khan Academy and

Get clarity on where you can add value to an organisation

Clearly understanding your strengths and how you can best add value to a future employer in your chosen field can also help focus your career development. For example, you may naturally enjoy getting to know new people, want to work in an industry that doesn’t attract a lot of people with customer relationship building skills and having researched job roles can see how these skills could be of specific use to companies. Taking steps to become more skilled and/or experienced in this area is something worth considering to make you stand out as a candidate.

As you do this, practise communicating to employers how this skill will benefit them.

Build up your professional contacts

Knowing people in your industry who you can ask for advice (such as a mentor) can speed up your career development, regardless of whether you are looking for a new job or not. People often find it difficult to invest a lot of time in this once they are in employment, so after graduation is a great opportunity to invest time in this. The Careers Network have resources which can help you with this.

Freelance projects

One way to gain further skills and experience that would impress an employer is to complete freelance projects. If you are still unsure about your career direction, this is also a great way to try out different options.

As an example, you can contact local businesses about consulting on a topic based on your skills and experience. You can also search online for opportunities.

Volunteer for a cause you care about

Volunteering has many benefits, such as improving your confidence using workplace English. The experience may also make your applications stronger, and gives potential employers more of an insight about you as a person. Spending time helping on a cause you care about can also be fun and greatly rewarding. Volunteering opportunities can be found by visiting

Christian Jameson-Warren, Loughborough University

Worried about being interviewed in a different language?

Firstly, it’s normal to feel nervous before a job interview. As long as the nerves do not get too much, this isn’t anything to worry about. Sometimes though you may feel additional worry or pressure because you are interviewing in a different language. In addition to practicing your language skills, the following techniques can help with this.

Recognise your specific worries

This will help you address each negative thought or emotion directly instead of being overshadowed by a overall feeling of unease. List your worries as specifically as possible, your thoughts and/or beliefs about each one and it’s potential impact on your behaviour. For example:

Worry – I’ll be asked a question that I don’t understand

Thoughts/beliefs – I’ll fail the interview because I can’t answer and will look stupid

Impact – I’m already scared about questions I’ll be asked and won’t be able to relax or come across confidently

Strategies for addressing specific worries include:

Being solution-focused

When we really care about something (such as securing a job), it’s easy to focus on what has or might go wrong. Unfortunately, focusing thoughts this way can be obstructive to success.

One strategy to use is to reframe negative thoughts from a positive angle. Seeing the situation in a new way that allows you to move forward. For example:

Original thought Reframed thought
‘I’m scared I won’t know the right words to say’ ‘It’s great that I really want to do well in this interview. What specific questions am I worried about answering, and who can help me practise them?’
‘I failed at the last interview even though I really prepared’ ‘I’m disappointed, but now know more about questions I might get asked, where I do well and where to improve for the next one. It’s normal for people to have a few job interviews before they are successful.’
‘I don’t know enough words’ ‘There are some some words and phrases I am confident using. How can I practise answers for questions I’m likely to get asked so I can improve on any areas of weakness?’


Reviewing your list of worries, are there anyways you can reframe your thoughts positively?


A rating scale can be used to identify where you are in relation to a goal and identify small, manageable steps to help you move forward. Sample questions you could ask yourself include –

  • On a scale of 1-10, if 1 were absolutely terrible and 10 was perfection, what score would I give myself for my interview skills?
  • I have given myself a score of X. What have I done to get the score this high?
  • What are the reasons I haven’t given myself a higher score? What would it take to get it up to the next score [e.g. from 5 to 6]?

Positive Experiences

While you may not have successfully interviewed in another language, you can still think about experiences that collectively improve your self-belief in detail. For example, remembering a good interview you had elsewhere. What did you do that made it a good interview? How did that make you feel? How did you prepare for it? How did you answer any difficult questions?


This involves imagining performing well in an upcoming event in minute detail. If this is a positive experience it can create positive feelings and associations in your brain as if you’d actually experienced the event for real. As an example of this –

Imagine yourself arriving for your interview, including thinking about what you are wearing. Think about how you might be feeling. Imagine meeting and introducing yourself to the people interviewing you, including the details of the room and furniture. You are walking in confidently and shake their hands. How are they reacting to you?

You sit down and they ask you the first interview question, which you answer confidently and easily. How does this make you feel? How are people reacting to you? Continue this process for a few more questions.

You end the interview by confidently shaking hands, smile and leaving the room. How do you feel now? What are the interviewers thinking as you leave?

Now try think of a word that you can associate with this final scene that would allow you to remember this image and associated feelings easily.

You can recreate this scene in your mind several times leading up to the interview, and each time use your chosen word to bring back the positive images in your mind. On the day of the interview you can say this word to yourself to help you get into a confident frame of mind.

Mock Interviews and Practise

You can book a mock interview with your careers service for upcoming interviews you have. This will give you interview practise. Please note that this will most likely be in English. If there are specific things you are worried about (e.g. specific interview questions), you can address these.

If you have an upcoming interview in a different language, having a mock interview in English will still help you practise good interview technique. If there are people you know who are fluent in the language you are interviewing in, there is value in practising interview questions and answers with them, even if they are not interview experts. Simply speaking words and phrases will help you feel more confident and be more proficient.

Christian Jameson-Warren, Loughborough University

Launching your global career – Virtual Seminars

We have developed a series of virtual events during the month of March.

Providing a fantastic opportunity for you to find out more from a wide range of organisations and skilled professionals to further develop your global mind set.

Click on the E-Brochure below to find out more and to book your place on a wide range of virtual events:

5 reasons to hire an international student

I, like many fresh graduates, received many, many rejections for job applications. I often ask for feedback (unless the company clearly states they cannot give any); but time after time I receive the same one-liner:

You were a good candidate, but we can’t sponsor a work visa.

Indeed, since the end of Post Study Work Visa in 2012, sponsoring an international graduate had only become more difficult – many companies are put off by the restrictions and fees of obtaining a visa license. There are only 29,367 organisations licensed to sponsor migrants in the UK as of today; to put that into perspective, there are 5.5 million businesses in 2016!

Too many companies are missing out on the brightest talents for fear of paperwork. Whilst individuals have their own talents, here are top five reasons why international graduates are well worth the extra step.

Language Skills

Many spend years struggling to learn a second language. International graduates excelled in theirs – English – and often have 2 – 3 more languages under their belts. They come with the cognitive benefits of being multilingual; and are better at multitasking and communicating, just to name a couple.

The global market nowadays means supply chains spread across continents, and it is always handy to have someone that thoroughly understands your international partners’ languages. You will save resources on third-party translators, have more efficient and effective communication, and gain quick trust from business partners.

New Perspectives

People born and raised in the same environment tend to think similarly. Bringing in a person from a completely different culture gives a new perspective to the existing business. To have fresh, innovate ideas on your team will certainly increase the chances of “eureka” moments!

Statistics show a more diverse team outperform the others. Begin fostering a culture that favors diversity in your company through entry level staff; in the long run, talents of different levels will see your efforts and come to you naturally.


Expanded Network

Britain is getting increasingly diverse. People from every corner of the world gather in this country to do business. Having international graduates on your team can bring new clients and connections that previously only dealt within their own communities.

These opportunities are not restricted to local expats. International graduates have ties in their home countries, and understand their business culture. In the current market, connections around the world can only be beneficial, if not paramount to an organization’s success.


International graduates have learned to adapt and thrive in a different culture; many of us have built friendships and strong community bonds. The learning style in the UK is often different to what we were used to, but as graduates we have proven our abilities to thrive despite this.

We are used to unexpected challenges – and are quick to adapt to new, exciting opportunities. As professionals, this skill can only grow.


It’s not an easy task to move to a completely different country. It’s not easy to do a university degree in your second language. It’s not easy to decide to stay in said country, despite the barriers and challenges.

International graduates are a very special group of people that overcame all these. We are ambitious, courageous, and more than anything, resilient.

All we need is a chance to shine.


Bonus: New Entrant Discount

Sponsoring a fresh grad is more easy than you think. Employers enjoy many discounts for sponsoring a student that switches from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (work) visa, including:

  • Exemption from conducting a Resident Labour Market Test
  • Unrestricted CoS – not under monthly quota
  • Exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge (£1000 per year per employee)
  • Employee does not need provide an overseas criminal record certificate

For more information: please check out AGCAS’s guide for employers.

Zoe Chan

Multilingual Birmingham Law Graduate seeking full-time role


Explaining qualifications and work experience to UK and overseas employers

Why that particular qualification and why overseas

Employers are faced with ever-changing qualification changes, making it a job to keep on top of what study and training will make for the best employees within their company.  For an non-UK student, choosing to study in the UK is a big decision, bringing with it potential of securing more challenging and rewarding employment, either within your country of study, within your home country, or in other exciting global locations. Oversees study brings both the challenge and reward of adapting to regional language variations, the cultural challenges, and collaborating and thriving within new study and project challenges.  Some students may question:

‘Why isn’t every employer fighting to recruit me; a brave, experienced and gifted individual?’

 Meaningful experience during study periods and being confident in previous experience

Employers very much value diverse experience and often non-UK students can underestimate the broad range of experiences that they can take up and later evidence, thus showing employers both competences and attitude to work. At Coventry University I have often explored the types of opportunities students are willing to consider. Whilst directly course related or job related experience is highly valuable, sometimes students need to develop appreciation for the wider range of voluntary, project based or short-term placements on offer.  This can help in telling a real story, showing willingness to integrate and add value within their local or wider community, or work on social issues that may be relevant to a future companies a graduate wishes to work for, or perhaps run as an entrepreneur. Many of these projects can provide inspiration for future university projects, setting up of their own social Enterprises, or lead them to situations where they can network with those working within their preferred future industry.  Starting with less vocationally focussed experiences can often be a pathway to showing employers the commitment needed, which helps them push for later relevant employment, or help employers to commit to providing visa sponsorship for longer term UK based employment.

 The understanding of skills developed, in relation to the jobs market

Broader student experiences, coupled with detailed exploration of future careers, through professional networking and employer events, can make for a richer experience within the UK.  In addition to exposure to new methods of teaching, project based assignments provide valuable ways to link study to future industries and careers.  Meaningful projects provide invaluable ways for students to prove their skills meet the needs of employers. Many employers provide real life project ideas, which universities can use with students or develop into employer sponsored final projects. Course related internships and dissertations also provide ways of demonstrating professional use of new skills.  This can really show crucial new learning, ideas and professional development, set against the needs of UK based and global employers.

Making the story work

I have found that some students can struggle to explain these projects to employers.  This brings the need for the support of both of academics and university employability professionals to help demonstrate key points within a UK CV or overseas application.  Articulating the value of this student experience can be one of the biggest challenges, adding to the pressure of ensuring employers fully appreciate your qualification, relevant modules or the reasoning for selection of a personal project.  Researching key articles and journals to develop ideas and then taking up support offered can make a vital difference in clearly presenting and interpreting ideas within application forms, or when structuring an answer to a key interview question. (see other blog articles for ideas)  Careers professionals and staff connected to University International Offices can make a real difference, especially if the student comes ready with existing ideas and has the flexibility to try new approaches and develop thinking.  This can be the difference in bridging the gap between student expectations and employer uncertainty in considering overseas students.


Understanding the options for graduate roles and visa guidelines?

An additional challenge is understanding the employment market to which you are applying, something often home students also struggle with.  Exploring what is a shortage occupation can add increased motivation and realism for opportunities both home and international students consider.  This can enable a student or graduate to offer employers relevant projects, think of ways of presenting their dual country understanding and ability to understand diverse perspective, adding real value to the employer. Understanding the country region or production or technological expertise within global locations may add to their likelihood of succeeding in securing job opportunities.  Professional industry bodies provide excellent ways to network, research and gain additional accreditation for skills, showing a good fit for the UK and also international jobs market.  Many of these industry based organisations, with their international reach, so may provide ways to connect back to home nations, or regions in which a student is seeking work.  Learning how to network appropriately and explore the wider range of opportunities outside of the curriculum is essential for those who are going to succeed.

With all this in mind, it is complex picture an international student is faced with.  As global markets change and different countries reconsider their immigration policies, things may become more complicated. What is clear though, is that those students with the desire to develop their understanding and challenge the initial plans and ideas they had when arriving in the UK, greatly increase the success they have.  This can lead to a thirst for understanding different recruitment methods, genuine employer needs, thus helping networking with those usually outside of their social sphere or industry.  Those with the ability to make use of all opportunities and consistently adapt their approach in the face of difficulty will thrive from the experiences and opportunities presented by UK universities.

Chris Steventon (Careers Consultant)

Coventry University

Careers information for new students

Careers information and tips for new students

Moving to a new country can involve a lot of changes to get used to. Below are several actions that can help you best prepare for your future career.

Get your CV ready before you start and get it checked by your careers service

This may seem counter-intuitive so early on in your studies, but getting your CV right early on not only will save you time later, it will also allow you to apply for a variety of opportunities throughout your studies, including insight days, work experience/shadowing and internships. In addition, working on your CV can help you identify your personal strengths and skills and importantly, learn how to articulate them clearly to employers – a key skill in the recruitment process that many people struggle with.

Familiarise yourself with the support available

Within your university there will be a group of trained professionals within Student Services who can help you settle in and stay at university. Although there may be some variation between universities, this typically includes:

  • International Students’ Advisory Service

Support and advice for prospective and current international students on immigration issues, registration and other related legislation, as well as helping with any questions you may have about living in the UK.

  • Counselling Services

Professional, confidential counselling for students experiencing emotional or psychological challenges.

  •  Disability & Learning Support

Specialist advice for students with physical and mental health disabilities, learning difficulties and other medical conditions.

  • Welfare Support

Practical support for managing stressful experiences that students typical face.

  • Careers

Help you in deciding what career you want, making a plan to get there as well as supporting through every stage of the application process.

There are also other organisations that offer support international students. For example, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) offer advice on visas, immigration and living & working in the UK. The British Council provides information to international students interested in studying in the UK that can tailored to your home country.

Engage with your careers service and understand what employers want

It’s easy to leave thinking about getting a job until nearer graduation, however engaging early with your careers service will allow you to maximise your time so you are better prepared for employment in a competitive job market.

Not only can your careers service help you decide on a career goal, they you can also work with you to create an action plan to achieve this. This includes researching what employers in your chosen sector want from applicants. Online resources such as Prospects, TargetJobs or resources on your university website can help with this, as can attending events with employers on campus. The Careers Service can also help you identify which of these skills, attributes and experience you already have and plan how to develop the others; for example identifying and applying for relevant internships, employment/voluntary work or student society roles.

Become familiar with sector information and vacancy websites, as well as application deadlines.

Websites such as Prospects and Targetjobs, are great for searching for internships, placements and graduate opportunities within the UK as well as having opportunities and information about working in different countries. Your university may also have a system for advertising opportunities both in the UK and in other countries. There are links in the ‘Useful Links and Resources’ section of Midlands International Group website to other resources, for career information and vacancies around the world.

There are also many websites that have information about the latest trends/information in your chosen sector, while others advertise vacancies for specific job sectors. For example, if you are interested in being a management consultant, reading Consultant News and Management Today will keep you updated on the industry, while Top Consultant advertises management consultant jobs in the UK, USA and Australia. Keeping updated with latest industry trends can help you be better prepared for your chosen career, and you may be asked about this in a job interview.

It is also important to know the recruitment timescales within you chosen career. For example, if you are interested in a career in finance, the deadlines for placements and graduate opportunities are quite early in the academic year. 

Information about working in the UK

If you are looking to work in the UK at any point you will need a National Insurance Number. Speak to your International Students Advisory Service for help with this.

If you currently require a visa to study in the UK and wish to apply for jobs here after your studies, you will need a Tier 2 visa. Not all employers sponsor Tier 2 visas, so it’s important to check prior to applying for a company if they can sponsor you or not. A list of companies that can sponsor Tier 2 can be found at here.

 Connections, connections, connections…

Most jobs are found through talking to people, otherwise known as networking. There are other really good articles on this website about how to do this well, but in summary:

  • Don’t forget to keep in contact with people in your home country if you plan on returning there to work after your studies.
  • Contact people who recruit for the job you want to do, including at career events at your university such as Careers Fairs.
  • Connect with alumni on LinkedIn who work in your chosen sector.
  • Your academic department staff may also be able to introduce you to people in your industry.

It can be intimidating to speak to new people and you may not feel you have the time. However, scheduling a small amount of time consistently each week can lead to see some great results.

Mix with students from other countries

Surprisingly, there has been feedback from employers that students who study in England return home with worse English skills because they have spent most of their time socialising with students from their home country and do not engage with students from other countries or fully-engage with UK culture. Not only is spending more time with students from other countries a great experience, it can greatly improve both your spoken-English skills and other ‘soft’ skills that employers value – such as interpersonal and listening skills, social confidence, relationship building as well as a more multi-cultural, global outlook. Changes in many jobs mean that people skills are becoming more important, and being able to build friendships with people from different cultures is  a great way to demonstrate this skill to employers.

Give your studies a global dimension

 Do you have what it takes to compete in a global market of today? Not sure what else you can do to develop your global competencies? Check our tips and advice on how to give your studies a global dimension and gain that edge over other graduates.

Now more than ever, it is vital that you make the most of your studies to develop the so called global mindset really sought after by employers in today’s challenging and highly globalised job market.

Whether you are an EU/Overseas student already studying internationally in the UK or a HOME student considering a career abroad after graduation, there are many ways you can increase your global competences and create an outstanding personal brand to impress future recruiters.

Give your academic work an international angle
Regardless what subject you are studying, there are simple ways on how you can make your studies more international.

Talk to your lecturers and tutors about the teaching and research they do. Many of them are engaged in international partnerships or writing on topics of global relevance. When choosing your modules, consider those with international and intercultural perspectives and try to cover these angles in your assignments and dissertation.

Where possible team up with students from other countries and cultures during class discussions or group projects. If your course is ‘with a Year in Industry’ consider an international placement or one with a company with global links.

If you are a postgraduate student, join any relevant international research networks or organise a conference that would bring students from other countries to share and discuss the research you are all involved in. Last but not least, follow global developments in your subject by reading international journals, magazines or expert blogs.

Go on a semester or a year abroad

Speak to your tutor and the International Office at your university about an opportunity of studying and/or working abroad for a semester or even a whole academic year.

Opportunities are endless and depending on your university’s international partnerships, they can range from Erasmus+ in Europe (both study and internships), working as a Teaching Assistant abroad with British Council, studying in the USA or Mexico or even doing an exchange at one of the satellite campuses of your university.

You don’t necessarily need another language to take part (as many courses abroad are also taught in English) and there is lots of support available to help your brush up on your language skills before and during your year abroad.

Studying or working abroad will equip you with amazing new skills, such as intercultural communication, planning and organising and resilience. It will also give you a fantastic opportunity to make new friends all over the world, as well as gain new perspectives on your studies and potential future career. Finally you’ll come back more mature and confident and with a clearer idea of what you like and don’t like doing after graduation!

Employers value the ability to adapt to new environments and practices, as well as people who can communicate effectively with others across different cultures and languages and your experiences abroad can provide evidence of the qualities they need.

On your return, make sure to come and speak to your careers service. The advisers there will be happy to help you articulate and present your international experience in future applications and interviews. They also organise regular workshops and events that bring along international companies to campus, so make sure to attend them, ask questions about international and intercultural opportunities and grow your networks.

Get involved with volunteering

If your course does not allow you to go on a year abroad, consider taking part in volunteering. Volunteering with local and international organisations gives you the chance to contribute to the community, improve your CV, develop new skills and have fun.

Volunteering can be a great way to gain global experience by taking part in diverse projects, from helping people to learn English to supporting local immigrants and refugees or participating in intercultural mentoring schemes.

Check out your careers service’s website to find out more about the voluntary organisations they are working with and how you can get involved. Or if you have a particular idea in mind, why not starting your own student-led project overseas?

Join a society and meet students from other countries

Through your university’s Students’ Union you can meet people from many nationalities, learn about other cultures, take on new challenges and get work experience by holding a position of responsibility in a society.

Participating in university life and the local community will enrich your time at the university and make you attractive to employers as it suggests that you can make a valuable contribution to the workplace too.

Student groups and societies welcome all students and are a great opportunity to widen your social circle, learn a new language and get familiar with different customs.

Learn another language

Ability to communicate effectively in more than one language will greatly enhance your career prospects in a global job market. It will help you develop your cultural self-awareness and give you insights into other countries and cultures. Employers value graduates who can interact confidently with diverse people personally and professionally.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters confirms:

“More and more employers are looking for graduates with a global mindset. This means an ability to work across different cultures and borders, an awareness of the global forces affecting organisations and the diversity of thinking to tackle challenges in a global environment. If you can also communicate effectively in more than one language, you will be well placed to make the most of international opportunities.”

Learning a new language can be sometimes  added as a new module or a pathway to your degree, or taken up university’s languages centre. Check your university’s website for more details or discuss options available to you with your personal tutor.

Inspired by any of the ideas above?

Take action – visit your careers service’s website, research your options and book a careers guidance appointment to discuss your next steps.

The post was written for the Midlands International Group by Gosia Mobbs (University of Leicester), 28 June 2017.


Networking and your Personal Brand.

There is a lot of information out there about ensuring you network effectively. I wanted to present some of the issues international students may face and propose practical ways to overcome these difficulties. However, firstly I want to talk about the importance of “Personal Branding” in all your networking endeavours.

Why Network?

Networking can be so useful in supporting your future career. It can be used to:

  • Gain careers advice and sift through potential options.
  • Obtain a realistic picture of a profession.
  • Understand an organisation’s culture and whether you are a good match for this.
  • Open up opportunities for personal development.
  • Provide introductions to useful contacts.
  • Build mutually beneficial relationships, perhaps creating a coach or mentor.

Networking is not about asking for a job! Instead it is a chance to make connections, have useful conversations, gain insights and to build your on-going relationships.

Before you start networking

It’s really important to understand your own “Personal Brand”, prior to undertaking any networking activity. Tom Peters first coined this phrase in his 1997 article “A brand called you”. This article emphasised the importance of being able to promote ourselves professionally, clearly and confidently. He said:

“Regardless of our age, position or the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies. Our most important job is to be Head of Marketing for the brand called you!”

This emphasises the need to firstly understand and then confidently promote ourselves to the world around us.

In order to do this you need to understand what is unique about you. A useful video resource to help with this is “Creating your Personal Brand” by Lida Citroen (2015). Lida explains that a Brand is an “expectation of an experience” and personal branding is about how we make people “feel” about being around or working with us. With this in mind the intention is to create a positive feeling from others based on our interactions with them. This could be through producing an excellent piece of work ahead of time for example or doing something for another person with no expectation of reciprocation.

To start this process of personal branding, firstly we should stop and take stock. We need to take an inventory of our skills, experience and interests. This could involve asking ourselves questions like: Where do I want to be? What inspires me? What is unique about my experiences so far? What are my talents and skills? What skills do I need to work on?

As an international student one major advantage you have is your increased cultural awareness and possibly your ability to speak different languages. There will be other unique qualities you have too!

You can also understand how you are currently seen by others through requesting 360 degree feedback. Be open to this honest feedback from people who you currently interact with on a regular basis and then start to think about how you want to be seen by others.

Once you have answers for the above, you can start to build a strategy to take you to where you want to be. This will involve building influence with others through your actions.

Lida explains that “Credibility” (which you need to build your personal brand) comes from understanding and having a clear set of values and acting on these to increase your personal influence.

Credibility = Values + Action

You can then define your target audience. These can be broken down in to three categories but each of these can be equally useful in the longer term:

Decision Makers – Those who make hiring decisions or have a decision making role within businesses.

Information sources – Those who have insights and information about a role, organisation or specialism. They can add value to your existing knowledge base.

Supporters – Those who support and encourage you. They may be known as a “critical friend”. They could be an official or unofficial mentor/coach.


Networking is about creating win-win situations, therefore it is important that where you can you offer support and help to those you need help from. Be genuine and build your personal brand around your real strengths this will ensure you are authentic which in turn should ensure your networking is meaningful and long lasting.

Challenges for International students

International students often face challenges when approaching networking for the first time. Some common challenges have been addressed below:

  • I’m not from the UK and therefore I have no established networks in UK industry

Every university in the UK has a Careers Service which all have strong links with industry partners across the UK and beyond. This means that you don’t need to already have an established network in the UK. There are a range of activities you can get involved with to ensure you can build a wide range of contacts in multiple industries. Here are some examples:

Most Universities offer mentoring schemes with former students, now Alumni, who offer their time to support you in developing your network and career. Some will be working in the roles you will want to undertake so can be really invaluable contacts. Contact your careers service to find out more about this. Most University careers services will host employer events during term time each week to provide industry and recruitment insights. This is a great way to network, ask questions and connect with people who are wanting to hire students and graduates.

  • I’m not used to the formalities involved in UK business and industry so I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake in dealing with new people.

Most university Careers Services across the UK provide events to support you in how to network effectively and at careers fairs, staff are on hand to talk you through appropriate behaviour and etiquette if you are unsure.

  • I’m not an extravert so speaking to strangers just doesn’t feel natural and I just don’t know what to say.

Everyone is in the same position as you and although some people may be naturally extravert people or come from a much more extravert culture, there are ways you can increase your confidence. Seek out support from your Careers Service. They will help you to create an “Elevator Pitch” to clearly, concisely and confidently present yourself to others. They may be able to talk you through UK customs and culture in order to help you feel more confident in speaking to potential employers or business connections.

  • I don’t see the point in networking, I just want a job.

Generally, networking undertaken by students, is done to increase their chances of gaining employment. However, stating this outright when you meet a new connection can make people less inclined to help you. Networking is about creating “win-win” situations. This means creating mutually beneficial relationships where you can help each other. Rather than seeing networking as a way to get a job, instead try to ensure you understand the business or the role you are wanting to work in. Being helpful to people can help to create a good impression, supporting others whilst also gaining invaluable experiences which you can later draw from perhaps in interviews or in your CV. You may even be able to use this connection as a reference in the future and it could lead on to more useful contacts which could eventually lead you into the perfect role.

What do employers want?

I recently asked a range of high profile employers to explain what they felt demonstrated “good networking” skills. Here are their responses:

“Making a good first impression is really important. One way you can achieve this is through networking. Proactively engaging with employers on campus, at their office, or through your online profile not only means you’ll learn more about their opportunities, but you may also get the chance to meet your future colleagues. At fairs make sure you give a firm handshake, ask questions and demonstrate positive body language such as eye contact’’. From Charlotte Robertson, Student Recruitment, PwC

“Something we really look for is a student that has prepared in advance of the event, either by reading up on the companies attending via the promotional literature, or even just googling them in advance to research whether it’s definitely a company they would like to learn more about or apply to. Also somebody that comes over and introduces themselves and shakes hand always goes down well.” From Harriett Cormack, CEB Global

Article written for the Midlands International Group by Teresa Corcoran – Postgraduate Careers Consultant (Business School) at the University of Nottingham, 26 June 2017. This blog follows on from an earlier blog about networking by my colleague Ben Simkins who is a Careers Adviser at Keele University (Link to Ben’s blog: Here ).


Citroen, Lida “Creating your Personal Brand” (2015) Link: Here

Peters, Tom “A brand called you!”(1997) Link:

What is networking?

Networking for International Students

Image: CC0 – Public Domain.  No attribution required

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:

For an introduction to LinkedIn and how it can used visit:

For a more detailed guide to LinkedIn visit:

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!


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