Networking is as simple as approaching people to ask for their advice and to talk to them about the career area. People like to share their tips, particularly with those just starting out, and a simple conversation can lead to opportunities for work experience and even jobs
If you're shuddering at the thought of making small talk at gatherings and events, rest assured: you can network from your desk.
Networking can often lead to work experience, through requests made to contacts online, via friends, family, through your university or in speculative approaches. Always initially begin the conversation by asking for their advice, which helps to diffuse any 'demanding' feeling to the encounter. If they advise you that work experience isn't likely, ask what they'd suggest instead - is there anyone else they recommend you to speak to?
Work experience can also lead to networking. Having undertaken some work experience, make sure you add colleagues on LinkedIn or other social channels to keep in touch; you never know when you might be useful contacts or collaborators again.
There are professional associations for a huge range of industries, and some of these can be beneficial to join even before you're in that field. Check job sectors to learn which might be relevant, and then search their website to find out what they offer. Student membership rates can often give you access to training events, conferences and forums, which can be good places to contact others in the field.
Employers attending careers events remember what it was like to be where you are now and are keen to offer help and advice. Make sure you prepare some questions in advance to avoid asking about things that are written in bold on their website and make sure you find out what you need.
Always say thank you and ask whether it would be possible to take their email address. You can use this to send a polite follow-up email, thanking them again, sharing any information you think they might find useful and asking any additional questions you may have. Let them know how their information has helped you and they will be more likely to feel valued as a contact and remain one over time.
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