#FridayCatchUp – Guest blog from Verity Washington

Verity is a current undergrad in her second year studying Education – check out her ongoing blog about employability!

What is ‘networking’?

One of the arguments I frequently hear when it comes to graduate job hunting is that there’s no point trying because it’s not “what you know” it’s “who you know”. Well, if there’s any truth in that (personally I am skeptical), then there’s an easy way to get round it. Get to know more people.

In the correct recruitment terminology, we would refer to that as networking. But the problem is that ‘networking’ seems to be a bit of an art form, with just the mention of it bringing the best of us out in a cold sweat.

So what is this ‘networking’? Where can you do it? How can you master it and what is its point?

A friend of mine recently told me about a fellow student at her university. This individual had been unable to find a graduate job, but then called up a big firm in London whose recruitment team remembered him from a careers fair and gave him a job senior to a graduate job because they liked him so much. This anecdote shows the power of the networking art form!

I’m not saying a repeat performance will readily jump into your life, but you may as well give it a shot. By talking to people in relevant places, you put forward an idea about yourself, they get to know you a little bit and you get to know them. That is equally as important because surely you would like to know if this is the type of company you want to work for in future.

You don’t have to go dressed in a suit and you don’t have to be overly confident about it, but you do need to talk and be interested.

A careers fair or employer presentation is a really great way of getting to know a company and here’s why:

1)     You can ask them how to get to your dream job – they’ll tell you the kind of experience they look for and dates for applications etc;

2)     You get to meet them in person – this is such a good opportunity and puts you in such a better position than if you’re just handing in a bit of paper with some A Levels on – they get to meet YOU and you get to put in that all important first impression;

3)     Take a business card, ask for a business card, keep that business card for when graduation comes a calling;

4)     Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be determined. Be memorable.

All of this is really important but careers fairs are not the only way to network. Shockingly you’re in an institution with thousands of people who will be successful in life. They will go on to get ‘good‘ jobs and so will you. But if you ever find yourself applying for a job and need some advice, or you’re looking for a job but haven’t seen anything advertised, what better a resource to have than lecturers, seminar tutors, classmates, careers staff and your friend from a sports society that you haven’t spoken to in a while but now works in recruitment at KPMG (maybe not but you get the idea). The University of York’s Alumni network is extensive, so if you could benefit from professional but friendly advice on your careers, consider putting in an early application for the Alumni Mentoring Scheme with Careers next term.

In a place like the University of York you are constantly networking without even realising it. But this highlights another value that comes from getting involved at your University. Knowing a wider range of people will inevitably lead you to more opportunities that will lead you somewhere. I’m not saying join every society going (you could join at least one), but you can ask your lecturer if you can help with any research in the department, go on other people’s socials, do some volunteer work in town, get a part time job, do a York Students in Communities placement, do a York Students in Schools placement, do something and get yourself known, whilst making a good impression doing it.

You never know what is around the corner, but wouldn’t it be great to know you have some contacts that could point you in the right direction? Your contact might have a contact that knows about a job going somewhere or a chance to do some work experience in the area that interests you. As your contacts grow, so do your opportunities.

There are always networking opportunities happening at York. To make the most of those offered by Careers, look at these suggestions:

  • Come along to employer presentations – you can see what events are coming up through your personalised Careers Gateway
  • Apply for the Alumni Mentoring Scheme (rolling acceptance of applications – those submitted now will be entered for Spring term);
  • Check out York Award courses such as “Networking for Beginners” and “Your Online Brand” with Careers and register for these in Spring term.

So the next time someone mentions networking, don’t think it’s not for you! Give it a go, persevere and see what comes from it.