The cliché of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” may well be one of the most annoyingly overused phrases you are likely to hear, but it could be more accurate than you think.

Depending on the job you wish to obtain after your studies, networking whilst at university could be one of the best ways to help your future career.

In the latest of our autumn series of student advice guides, we explore the benefits of enhancing your student network and business networking skills in the modern age.

The creation of social media over the last decade has made networking all the more powerful, and important. With so many people on social media it is harder to get noticed as someone up and coming in an industry. So, we hope the following tips will help you to enjoy the benefits of networking at university.

Benefits of Networking

Business networking, whether at university, or later in your career, could open doors for you that you would otherwise be unaware of. Networking may help you:

– Find information regarding your sector, or a job you are interested in
– Find someone who will give you advice on how to make your way in an industry
– Establish contacts for future employment or services
– Help initiate future business deals
– Bounce ideas off reputable professionals
– Impress potential employers

Of course, in a perfect world networking would involve speaking to someone who is well respected and established in your chosen field, before hopefully securing future employment. However, in reality gaining employment through networking is pure luck and rarely happens.  Many companies prefer to recruit directly to save money and the administration, but the likelihood of them choosing someone with no experience will be slim.

Instead, networking could be your entrance into your industry and help to pave the way for meetings and discussions about your future. Who knows, you may even get some ideas which lead you to go in a completely direction. Networking can lead you to all sorts of exciting opportunities, which may even help with your studies.

How To Extend Your Student Network

But what are the best ways to go about networking? After all, you don’t want to be viewed as fake. Many people spend years learning the art of networking, and some even make careers out of it. So, what are the best methods of doing this without burning relationships or putting prospective business contacts off?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Prepare a Pitch

If you’re going to be actively networking whilst at university, it makes sense to prepare an elevator pitch to ensure you come across eloquently when the moment comes.

You don’t need to stick to this word for word, but a good 30 second introduction can mean the difference between securing a useful contact or not. By delivering something compelling when you first meet a contact, you can help make yourself stand out.

However, only use this as your introduction – a great way to network is to let the other person do the talking. Letting them lead is a good indicator of what they find interesting to talk about. Also, try to ask detailed questions which is not only a great way to impress, but also shows that you are listening to the person’s advice.

Personalities with a great reputation in your industry are likely to enjoy talking about what they have achieved so don’t be afraid to ask them about their experiences. You may even learn something useful from their stories.

Pick Your Networking Events Wisely

Attending events is the heart of business networking. University is likely to be the first time you have had the opportunity to attend such important meetings.

You can find the latest meetings in your area on websites such as EventBrite and MeetUp, and your faculty will also be able to advise on the best student networking events for you to attend.

Always remember to talk to as many people as possible. Don’t be afraid to go on your own, as there will always be someone else who has not come in a group.

Research

The final way to get the real benefit from networking alongside studying for your degree, is to make sure you have done the sufficient level of research.

Social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn are simply perfect for doing some snooping before your event to see who will be present. Knowing a little bit about the people attending can help start conversations, particularly when speaking to individuals with years of experience in their field.

Research is paramount, particularly when you talk to recruiters, and if you don’t do enough of this prior to attending your event, you may well come up short on the day. If you do decide to invest in business cards, don’t give these out prematurely as this can look unnatural and come across as overkill.

When it comes to things to avoid at networking events, it is quite simple. You should make sure you plan effectively and follow the above pointers.

Lastly, enjoy these events and show your excitement at joining the working world. Show enthusiasm and people will want to communicate with you.

You can find more student advice guides just like this one by exploring the rest of the Collegiate site.