Whether you are in your first year, a recent graduate, post-graduate researcher, or somewhere in between, it’s always a good time to build up your network both personally and professionally.
For some individuals, networking may be an exciting opportunity and a welcomed challenge, while for others it’s a daunting yet necessary task in order to advance within a chosen field or industry. Networking can sometimes get a bad reputation for seeming transactional and consisting of meaningless small talk, however, it doesn’t have to be that way. To make networking less intimidating and more meaningful, it really comes down to how you approach it, and there’s no better time to kickstart your networking than during your time at university. No matter where you are in your academic or professional journey, here are 5 top tips for more effective networking.
1. Start with who you know
A big misconception about networking is that it must always be done in formal settings and at networking events. While these can often be great places to meet many people outside of your industry or field of study, this isn’t the only way to network. When you are just starting out, it’s best to start with who you know. When you take the time to network with those you already know, you may learn new things about them, which can lead to unexpected ideas, connections or introductions that may prove to be invaluable in your life and personal development.
2. Have a knowledge-seeking mindset
Rather than approaching networking solely as a means to finding a job or advancing in your career, try shifting your mentality to a knowledge-seeking mindset to have more meaningful experiences. View each event, meeting or coffee catch up as an opportunity to meet others or learn something new and you will likely find more meaning, less pressure, and less burnout than if your sole focus is on a means to an end. When you attend events or meet with people one-on-one, make sure to ask questions, listen to others’ stories, and approach each meeting with an open mind and you may be surprised at how much you gain.
There are many recruitment events and careers workshops offered by Newcastle University Careers Services throughout the academic year. MyCareer shows you all of the upcoming event listings. If you are interested in working for yourself, START UP can offer a valuable network within the university to meet like-minded entrepreneurs and creatives. There are many events and workshops taking place throughout the academic year, and you can sign up for the START UP monthly newsletter here to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the great opportunities.
3. Strive to develop connections at different levels
While networking is often viewed as a way to get hired or advance in your career, it doesn’t have to exclusively serve this purpose. By striving to develop relationships and network at different levels and in a variety of ways, you can often develop meaningful connections that enrich your life both personally and professionally. Via networking with university peers and fellow students, you can share knowledge, be exposed to different disciplines, and find like-minded friends or potential co-founders for those interested in starting their own businesses.
Networking with people above you within a professional environment or those who work for companies or organisations you aspire to be part of can offer value in terms of growth opportunities. Although it’s often easiest to stay within our comfort zone when networking, building an inclusive network from those outside of your typical community can also be very a meaningful part of networking, and can bring value to your life in unexpected ways.
4. Market yourself
To network effectively in different settings, you need to be able to market yourself. While it’s not always easy to talk about yourself, you must learn to be your own best advocate and be able to share your unique story with others so they can appreciate your value. Though it can be difficult to talk about ourselves sometimes, focusing on telling a story that showcases your unique value and life experiences can be a great way to show people who you are. Talking about your strengths, skills you have acquired, and unique experiences are great ways to show people who you are and the unique value you offer.
An easy way to market yourself is by having a well-developed LinkedIn profile to serve as your digital CV, showcasing your personal, academic, and professional accomplishments. LinkedIn is a great resource to start establishing these sorts of connections both within the university community and beyond and is a great place to showcase your skills and begin building out your professional network in a low-pressure environment. In addition to LinkedIn, having a brief elevator pitch can be a great asset for when you interact with others in different networking settings.
5. Nurture your network
Building a personal and professional network takes work, but by viewing networking as a learning opportunity and a way to build enriching connections rather than a means to an end, you can establish and maintain meaningful, and possibly lifelong connections. Networking can certainly be about advancement and knowledge-sharing, but at its core, it is truly about establishing genuine connections.
As with any connections and relationships, you must put in the work to maintain and develop them over time. By sending a friendly email, interacting with someone on LinkedIn, or meeting up for coffee periodically you can continue to build and nurture the connections within your network. By doing this over time your network may allow you to be aware of great opportunities when they arise, and at the very least you will continue to build rich connections with like-minded individuals.
No matter where you are in your academic or professional journey, networking is for everyone and does not have to be daunting. By approaching it with an open-mind and a desire to make genuine connections, networking can be a rewarding, fun and enriching part of your Newcastle University experience.
This blog was written by Cerie Mosgrove, START UP Ambassador.
MSc, International Marketing (’23)
PgC, Research Training (’24)