Advice on networking as a student

by Maria Mellor

The practice of networking seems like an impossible task as a student. We hear about professional networking events and conferences, but it seems like we have nothing to offer. This is not the case. You don’t have to go to a networking event in order to network – it could be as simple as buying someone on your course a VK in the SU and finding out a little bit about them.

Having a good set of contacts can get you anywhere, whether it’s later in life when that girl you live with becomes prime minister, or finding someone to collaborate with on a creative project you’ve had in mind. It’s not just about doing better for yourself, but about making friends, and therefore contacts, while you can.

Once you have an idea of what you want to do as a career, find people who are doing it at the moment and reach out to them. Twitter is the best place to do this, as there are tons of professionals – be it journalists, accountants or web designers – who are all using social media to share their work and communicate with each other.

They share details about their everyday lives, giving you an automatic sneaky way in and a little bit of understanding about what they do. It might even be worth it to find a way to have a chat with them yourself so that once it comes to applying for a job with them they might remember your name.

Opportunities come from the strangest places. I was working as a waitress in London at the Aegon Championships last summer, and one day was asked to move from the main restaurant into the special champagne suite. I found out that one of the people I was serving was representing Tatler, and after chatting with her for a few minutes I landed myself two weeks work experience for this summer!

It’s just about having the confidence to talk to people. You might not even know what use they may be to you, but it’s totally worth striking up a random conversation with a stranger and seeing where it takes you.

Enthusiasm is key! If you let your passion for a subject shine through, people will see that and you may find yourself rewarded for it. It’s also important to do your research where possible. If you know that you’ll going to a Q&A from an industry professional, come prepared with questions and conversation topics to get the most out of it. It’s one way you can show your enthusiasm.

While it’s good to be prepared, there is such a thing as going too far. Don’t waste your money on business cards while you’re still a student as it’ll look slightly lame.

Instead don’t be afraid to ask someone you meet if you can add them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter – you could even whip out your phone and cheekily ask them for their number so you can drop them a text sometime.

Make the most of your opportunities and show your confidence and enthusiasm and you’ll be able to network wherever you go with whoever you talk to!

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