The Dos and Don’ts of Student Networking

This article is sponsored by Study Queensland

Networking is a great way to boost your career prospects and grow your professional connections. Whether you’re trying to land a job for the first time, or are looking to make a career change, the ability to network is an important skill.

The benefits of networking are many, so it’s crucial that you know how to do networking appropriately and effectively.

“Networking is a key to your future professional career. Socialising leads to professional networking with career advice and even a potential job,” shares Vivian Vu, an international marketing student (and networking expert!) from Vietnam currently living and studying in Brisbane. 

“My very first network was made on campus. University is a perfect place to begin as you can meet many students with similar backgrounds and interests,” she says. “Once I got used to studying abroad life, I tried to expose myself to more networking and volunteering events outside of university.”

To get you on your way to being an excellent networker, we’ve put together a list of handy networking tips.

The DOs

1. DO figure out what networking style works best for you

If you are a student, chances are you may be studying for a while longer or about to transition from academia into the professional world. If networking is uncharted territory for you, it’s important to understand your networking style so you can give it your best shot and avoid awkward encounters. 

“Understand yourself and your networking goals. In the beginning, do not push yourself to sign up for some formal networking event,” recommends Vivian. “Instead, you can try to start a conversation with your new flatmate or a stranger on the bus. This may help you build up a habit and strengthen your confidence.”

You may be an introvert who prefers to network one-on-one over a coffee, or an outgoing person who refrains from more intimate events and can handle a crowd well. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to networking.

2. DO network creatively

Thinking outside the box when it comes to networking can work to your advantage. Ditch the traditional networking events and opt to meet new people who have similar interests and passions. 

“Start with your interest, hobby. For instance, reading books is my hobby so I signed up to be a reading club member,” shares Vivian.

Volunteering and extracurricular activities are fantastic ways to develop your network, as they allow you to meet like-minded people who share the same values and career goals.

You can also try virtual networking! Vivian was able to embrace this opportunity through a QUT Business Advantage workshop.

“I had the opportunity to network with some guest speakers as well as students from different majors. It was really fun and helpful,” Vivian says.

3. DO craft an elevator pitch

Also known as a networking pitch, an elevator pitch is a succinct way of introducing yourself, what you do, and your career interests. Preparing your pitch beforehand will help you portray yourself in a confident and compelling light.

4. DO give it a try

It’s never too early or too late to invest time in networking. Just put yourself out there and give it a crack. As stated by Deena Baikowitz, Chief Networking Officer at Fireball Network: “The worst networking mistake you can make is not trying at all.”

5. DO pay it forward

If you’re part of an international student network, you’ll already understand how valuable networks are to international students who are trying to establish their academic and professional path in a foreign country. 

Be open to offering assistance to others. This could be anything from a recommendation or an introduction to someone in your personal, professional or international student network. 

The DON’Ts

1. DON’T network just for the sake of it and come unprepared

No one likes to engage with people who lack interest or enthusiasm. Do your research before going to a networking event to make sure you’re attending something that’s actually up your alley.

“You should be prepared, find out who is attending [the networking event] and their background. Do not go to a networking event with a blank mind,” advises Vivian.

This will ensure you’re going in with the right attitude and are genuinely keen to meet new people. People are more likely to keep in touch if you are involved and invested. 

Being prepared also extends to the way you present yourself at the event.

“Appearance is important as it is the very first impression that influences people’s assumption of you,” explains Vivian. “You do not need to dress up but keep yourself clean, tidy and professional, and follow the dress code of the event. Maintain your voice tone, good posture and eye contact. A friendly smile will help you a lot too.”

2. DON’T be afraid to follow up

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to be a bother, you may hesitate to follow up after speaking with someone at a networking event. However, failing to follow up is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. 

After a meeting, you can simply send a LinkedIn request with a personalised message or follow the person on Twitter. If you think the encounter will be a worthwhile lead, send the person an email letting them know how much you valued meeting them and ask to stay in touch regarding prospective job opportunities.

3. DON’T overdo it

Avoid overdoing anything when you’re networking. This includes talking too much, following up incessantly, or giving away business cards without being asked. No one likes to be pestered, and you don’t want to come across as needy or desperate.

4. DON’T take your networks for granted

Whether you approach networking on a professional or personal level, be sure to appreciate any kind of support you receive. Neglecting those who helped you achieve your dream job or a successful outcome can create a negative impression of you. 

You don’t have to feel like you owe them anything big. But being thankful and offering to be of assistance when needed goes a long way in building a positive rapport and meaningful connection.

5. DON’T get discouraged

Not everyone you network with will keep in touch or be helpful; this doesn’t mean you should give up and stop networking. The path to your dream career and success can sometimes be long and windy. Learn from every experience and reinvent the way you network so you can reap its rewards over time.

“Seek out good opportunities for networking, both planned and spontaneous,” Vivian advises.