So I haven’t blogged in a while. And this might sound like a really obvious question “why should students bother with networking?” but it occurs to me, that many students do not like networking and will try to avoid it if they can.
When I say networking I mean generally holding a conversation with someone who they don’t usually interact with. Some of you may read this and think “well maybe it’s just you?” but HA! It’s not, because I have heard the same message from other colleagues.
To some, networking feels like a very loaded term. I know plenty of people who do not like it. They don’t like the pressure, the notion that ‘everyone is just out to get something’. They don’t like that subtext of “please give me a job!” But it doesn’t have to be that way and networking isn’t just for jobs.
Working in a University the first thing that comes to my mind with regards to students and networking is; Can networking be taught? Should it be part of university courses?
My instincts tell me NO! Networking is simply conversation and people, regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted can be, almost “tricked” into doing it if they have the right opportunities. Everyone has a good conversationalist inside them they just need the right topic and the opportunity to shine!
Also, surely networking doesn’t need to be taught as part of a university course when university is such a naturally social place?! However, many students go to lectures, with headphones in, turn up just on time to sit with the same people and don’t often venture outside of those groups.
Unfortuantely it is the fear of the unknown, of being judged that puts students off networking. Whereas the smallest bit of ‘putting yourself out there’ could help and would take minimal effort. Going to a lecture slightly earlier to see who you can catch conversation with? Sitting with a different group of people to usual and chatting with them? Just a couple of things that could make you slightly better at striking up conversation.
I spend part of my job organising events which may have networking as a component and then students don’t turn up! Even with incentives like guest speakers, prizes and food they can’t see the benefit. This is because students don’t always have the long game in mind. With increase in technology use people generally want things NOW so often small talk and exchanging business cards feel like obstacles.
Often at networking evenings I get “what are we meant to do here?” or “I don’t know what questions to ask” which suggests to me that a lot of students simply lack confidence.
It’s interesting as well how networking throws into stark reality all the bragging we may have put down on paper on CVs or cover letters. Perhaps if you’re uncomfortable vocalising these things you need to revisit what you have on paper so you feel more comfortable if you need to speak up about how good you are.
I know there are many students who don’t need this kind of help or are happy to go out and make their own fortune BUT networking would help the less confident people and keep the more confident people’s skills in tune so it’s still worth doing.
A lack of confidence in some students is also obervable in lectures and seminars. Both as a student and now as a staff member I have noticed that many students don’t want to pipe up and say anything. Networking is similar to a seminar – a general exchange of knowledge.
Many students are reluctant to share information in seminars for fear of being judged or being called to account for a view they are sharing and they need to get past that to flourish in whatever they choose to do after graduating.
Networking opportunities within your university are the best place to ‘risk failure’ before you face bigger companies or potential bosses at careers fairs or interviews
I can talk for Britian but I am really poor at small talk and to this day still need to work on my “elevator pitch” so if nothing else maybe working on that would be a starting point.
Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now; Here are some links;