Table with iPads, phones, a cup of water, an espresso and a handbag.

Networking – Part 1

University will always be a peculiar mix of learning environment and professional world. Maybe you’ve just left college and progressed directly into higher education, or you’ve experienced the working world and now want to pursue your passion, from the get-go we are all tasked with becoming an expert in our respective field incredibly fast.

One minute we’re in the UCAS sweet shop, deciding whether we want a bag of London or a stick of Lincoln – the next we’re experiencing the nocturnal life of university (in the library of course) –  then before you know it we’re feverishly searching for jobs like an elusive can of beans in a nuclear fallout. This is the way it has to be – or does it?

Believe it or not, jobs are out there, and you can gain the experience required to succeed in them. However, there are a few life skills you need to develop – luckily, university is the place to do just that.

Walt Disney once said;

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

We all want to become something great and make an impact in our chosen occupation – but, without connecting and networking with others in our field, reaching our goals becomes almost impossible. As much as I would like to be an expert in graphic design, marketing, film, photography, illustration… (the list goes on) – at the end of the day, I am only one person. Being a creative advertising student means having these skills on hand is essential – so the best way to do this is connecting with the people who do!

My course is reliant on me getting myself out there, connecting with people from many paths and bringing skills together to make my ideas become a polished product. It is this that has thrown me into the world of networking – without it, I would have still chosen to run away rather than approach a CEO. Would I be outright rejected, appear over-enthusiastic or say the wrong thing? Sadly, great achievements don’t come from this attitude.

After speaking to a range of student networkers I have compiled a list of their best advice – because listening to those who have connected with people at the top of their game, will not only increase the quality of your research and projects, but it will also prepare you for chasing that dream job.

Talented people don’t bite (Well food critics are paid to, but that’s different.)

Ask yourself, ask anybody really. ‘What do I find hardest about meeting new people?’ I can guarantee the most common answer will be a lack of confidence in approaching somebody new. Our society has this inbuilt sense of rejection – it’s easier to coast at a comfortable speed than accelerate and risk crashing and burning in the process.

From one real life human to another, I can confirm… we really are just that – only human. Generally, saying hello to somebody new isn’t going to result in you being reduced to tears – it will most likely end in you beginning an interesting conversation and probably exchanging contact details.

It fascinates me how well people respond to a genuinely interested individual coming to chat to them. Five minutes of conversation can lead to so much, it’s unbelievable. Plus, you rarely need to be an expert to make a good first impression, show your admiration for what they do, make sure you show passion, and just express genuine interest.

Well, that’s my first tip for networking success at university, keep an eye out for Part 2!