4 Networking with potential employers
Sometimes a networking event with potential colleagues will be part of your interview day. On other occasions you might deliberately attend an event in order to make potentially useful contacts in the hidden job market you learned about in Week 4.
Networking doesn’t come easily to many people. The information on first impressions that you’ve already covered is very relevant here, but it can be intimidating or challenging to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know. Remember that you won’t be the only person in the room who is feeling nervous. The next activity will help you to think of ways to break the ice in a networking situation.
Activity 5 Opening lines to break the ice
Take a few minutes to come up with some good opening lines you could use at your next networking event. List them in the box below.
Having some ideas for what you could say will help you to feel more confident.
Zetlin (2016) recommends some openers:
- say hello and let the rest of the conversation flow from there
- ask why the other person is there (this works well at an event where lots of people from different organisations are gathering, e.g. a conference)
- comment on the weather
- share your feelings about the event so far or the venue, etc. Stick with positive feelings at first so you don’t risk offending anyone
- ask if the other person knows anyone at the event.
Know what you want before you get there
Another useful way to increase your confidence is to know what you want to get from the event before you arrive. Make sure you understand the context and try to do some research about who will be there. Two different examples are given in Box 4.
Box 4 Different networking contexts
Example 1 The informal lunch with potential new colleagues in between interview activities
In this case, you will want to come across as professional, approachable and engaging, so they are more likely to give positive feedback when asked what they thought of you. Your research about the organisation and the role should give you lots to say. It would also be sensible to pre-plan some appropriate questions, such as ‘What do you enjoy most about working here?’ or ‘Did you start as an intern here yourself?’.
For other ideas, look back at the questions you came up with in.
Example 2 Attending an industry event in order to make contacts that could help you to find some relevant work experience
Your key aim here is to come away with some contacts that you can follow up afterwards. If it’s a conference you are attending, you might receive a list of delegates in your welcome pack or you could contact the organisers and ask them which organisations will be represented. That way, you can have a plan for who you want to target and perhaps find them on social media, e.g. LinkedIn, before the event. In this scenario, you should also pre-prepare a short pitch about yourself. This is sometimes called an elevator pitch.