I’ve been to several Careers Service events in the past few weeks and the ones that have mentioned networking have presented it as something important and something that we should not be scared of. Better said than done, right? The tips I’ve been given all make sense and I do want to engage in networking a lot more often but I then thought to myself… where should I start? This is how I came up with a few ways in which students can network while at uni.
Attending fairs and workshops
The most obvious place you can take on networking is at large events such as Careers Fairs. The advantage of these events is that they concentrate a large number of companies looking for graduates (sometimes specifically UoM graduates, if the fair is held on campus), however, attending could put a lot of pressure on you, especially if you feel the need to make yourself stand out amongst the rest of the 40,000 students that could potentially show up at the fair with you.
If you were to take on networking in this challenging scenario, you should have researched the companies you are most interested in (don’t aim to talk to absolutely EVERY single company at the fair, please!), thought about how you can explain to the recruiters your interest and added value as a candidate, and printed out your CV to easily hand out. Attempting to add the company recruiters on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter is also a great way to carry on any contact you establish at the Careers Fairs.
Some of the presentations organised by the Careers Service include workshop-type dynamics that consist of practising interviews or networking techniques with other event attendees. This is another great way to meet new people and network, you never know if the person beside you is in a field similar to yours, or knows someone that could be working at a company with your dream job. Remember to always be open to engaging in conversation with your neighbours at these types of events and BE NICE!
Presentations by external companies or organisations
Sometimes the Careers Service, your school or your faculty will advertise presentations given by specific companies or organisations that may appeal to you and are specific to your field, so keep an eye out for them. Listen carefully to the presentation and if you can, ask questions or share your opinion on the subject matter so that you can stand out a bit from the rest of the crowd. At the end of these events the presenters often stay behind and you can attempt to approach them in a more individual setting.
Joining relevant social media groups and blogs
Whether it’s a society part of Student’s Union, a group suggested by one of your professors, or a random group you found on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, join or follow it if you consider it overlaps into your areas of expertise. Comment on the posts and re-tweet them. Attend the events. Take advantage of the fact that the interactions are not face to face, which means you’re not forced to leave your comfort zone. This will help place you on the radar. Keep a close watch for congresses or events held at other universities, particularly in London. These are bound to attract a greater number of people from all over the world, and a greater number of opportunities for you to network.
Reaching out to professors
The key to asking professors for help outside the classroom topics is to participate actively in their classes. Show interest. Again, ask questions. In the modules I have found most interesting, I have asked each of the professors if we could meet some time during their office hours so that they could tell me a bit more about their academic and professional experience. This is a great way to learn more about the types of jobs and areas of expertise that can open up to you after completing your degree. So far, all of the professors I have contacted for this purpose have been more than happy to meet with me and talk about their work, so I really encourage you to do the same. This is especially useful for those of you considering further studies, either at Master’s or PhD level.
Reaching out to PhD students
Some professors have PhD students who help them either in class, with lectures on specific topics or in tutorial sessions! These generate yet another source of networking, which may even come more naturally just because PhD students are often more relatable to you given their age and the stage of life they’re at. Ask them for help in class or during tutorials. Ask them about their work. If you find their experience and research particularly interesting, ask if you can meet up with them during their free time. Otherwise, ask your professors about the PhD students they are working with and maybe they can help you contact them. I personally took advantage of the fieldwork I had as part of my course to ask a couple of the PhD students who travelled with us about their research in a more laid-back setting. It was then easier to contact them again when we returned to Manchester.
Reaching out to peers
The people you sit next to in class will not only be your classmates while you study at Manchester and your friends afterwards, they might also be another way to reach your ideal job. Ask them about their previous experience and future plans. You can start by asking them while in class or at academic events. But why not suggest going for lunch, coffee or even for some drinks? Try to organise group events, if this is easier for you than a one-on-one dynamic. If you have group projects, propose going out together for a meal or a drink in a non-academic setting to get to know each other in a more relaxed ambience.
For those of you who live in university accommodation or student residences, you have an additional advantage because your flatmates or res-mates can also be a great networking source. Even if they study something completely different, the interdisciplinary job market means interesting synergies can be created everywhere. Make an effort to attend events organised by your ResLife advisors (if you live in university accommodation), or organise flat or resident integrating events yourself. For some ideas, read my previous article about cooking ideas to bring your neighbours together.
Finally, attempt to attend social events from either the International Society or other societies that might interest you. Whether it’s an academic society, a sport society or something completely random that merely brings together people that have a passion for the same thing, be sure to engage! I’ve already attended events held by the Debating Society, the MUN Society, and the Coding Society and they all offer activities for a range of people with different backgrounds and interests. Try to break out of your shell and talk with others. Once again, be nice and friendly and it’ll be easier for you to meet new people. I’ve heard that some UoM students start a business, social enterprise or an NGO while at Manchester and carry on working on it even after they graduate… that could be you!
Reaching out to UoM alumni
Last but not least, searching for UoM alumni is another great way to network with people already immersed in the labour market. The Careers Service often offers events that offer such opportunities such as the “Meeting the Professionals” events, where former UoM students come onto campus and talk with small groups at a time about their current jobs in a particular sector.
Another way to contact students and graduates is through social networks. Look for them through LinkedIn by searching for key words related to your industries or companies of interest. LinkedIn usually displays as part of its search results the UoM alumni that work in that particular industry or company. You can also search for “The University of Manchester” on LinkedIn and more specifically, in their associated alumni. Furthermore, if you’ve joined a particular group, you can easily reach out to members who are also UoM alumni. You already have two things in common so make the most of this for a conversation starter. On Twitter, attempt to join conversations and slowly develop a professional relationship through a common subject matter.
Finally, visit The Manchester Network, the university’s professional social network, to get in touch with UoM alumni in the sectors that you find most appealing. You can even request mentoring from those alumni who are open to do so. They can help you with a range of careers services such as revising your CV, reviewing a job application and giving you general advice. Visit the Ask Me About web page to find out more about how to do this. Moreover, the Global Networks page has the contact information of the alumni in charge of the specific networks by continent and by country. Heads up though, not all countries have done this so don’t be demotivated if you can’t find yours. For additional professional and alumni networks for international students, please click here.
For further general information about networking and how to do it please visit the Careers Service’s page on Using networks to help you in your job search.