26 September 2023

5 Ways to Network at University

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Whether you’re in your first, second or third year of uni, you can always take steps to advance your career. One of the best ways of doing that is by networking. 

You’re probably thinking, “Networking? Already?” Yup. Networking is SO important and will significantly impact what happens once you graduate.

It’s cliché, but the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” isn’t entirely untrue. While your knowledge and transferable skills are extremely valuable, there’s nothing wrong with backing that up with a little black book of industry contacts. 

So we’ve put together some tips to get you started.

1. Become buddies with your lecturers

Your lecturers weren’t just plucked out of the void and placed at your uni for no reason. They are experts in their field and have a vast range of experience and wisdom that’ll rival Yoda.

Industry connections

Many lecturers are still very connected to their industry, which means they have contacts. They can be hugely influential. Let them know your career goals – they might know a friend-of-a-friend or just happen to be going to dinner with a CEO.

Dissertation tutors

It’s highly likely that one of your lecturers will become your dissertation tutor in final year. So the sooner you create a strong working relationship with them, the quicker you’ll get the support you need for your studies.

2. Visit your careers advisors

Their job is to guide students in making all the good career decisions — use them! There are so many things your career advisors can support you with. These include…

  • Finding work experience that’s relevant
  • Suggesting career choices you might not have considered
  • Helpful training tools
  • Application tips
  • CV reviews.

Career advisors are also part of networks (see, they are important). So if there’s ever a moment they need an outside resource to help you, they can call on another career advisor.

3. Attend networking events

It’s obvious, but important to remember that networking events are a fantastic way to expand your network. The more you attend, the more people will remember you.

Some events aren’t necessarily advertised as such, but are fantastic opportunities to network. These include…

  • Freshers’ and career fairs. You’ll meet loads of new people and employers. It’s your chance to get your name out there from the start
  • Special guest speaker events. There’s usually a reception afterwards where you’ll get to chat to people in the industry
  • Alumni events. You’ll meet past students who are now seasoned professionals
  • Student societies. They host events, meet with other societies and host guests. It’ll do wonders to expand your network
  • Virtual Events. Exactly what they say on the tin. Virtual events can include panel talks and seminars. There’ll always be a chance to network, also.

If you’re stuck on where to find these events, always check your university’s social media and careers office for updates.

Did you know that we host our own Virtual Event series? Check it out.

4. Create a LinkedIn profile

“But isn’t LinkedIn just a really boring Facebook?” NO! LinkedIn is everything. Why? Because it’s a marvellous way to find a job. It’s networking without having to leave the house. 

Every company in the world, big or small, has a profile on LinkedIn. So you can:

  • Follow them
  • Find out everything they’re doing
  • Sign up and attend industry events
  • Be the first to know when they post jobs.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and interact. Comment on posts, share them. It’ll work wonders.

We have a whole guide on LinkedIn. It’s super helpful.

5. Speak to everyone

Your friends. Your course mates. That one person who’s always on campus, but you’re not quite sure whether they’re a student. Okay, maybe don’t do that, but you get the gist.

The point is you never know where your connections will take you. A course mate might have started a placement somewhere, and the business is so impressed with them that they want another placement student – that could be you.

The absolute do nots of networking

When you’re networking, you should always plan to show off your best assets; the above can help you do that. However, it’s easy to slip up and ruin your chances before you step one foot into the professional world.

So here are things not to do.

  • Do not treat networking as a game for getting the most contacts. Not every contact will be useful; people will see if you’re not genuine with your intentions
  • Many face-to-face networking events include alcohol. Don’t get wasted. The contacts you make will remember you…for all the wrong reasons
  • Don’t expect too much right away. Building a network takes time, and it would be a little presumptuous to think your network will immediately do things for you. Nurture your networks, check in, and catch up – it’ll go a long way
  • Don’t pester your contacts. Constantly checking in will make things uber uncomfortable, and you might find yourself blocked.