Networking: A Guide For Students and Those Who Suck At It

So,  you’ve heard that you should be networking right? Networking is crucial to a successful career and cracking the hidden job market but you’d rather try sober up David Hasslehoff than be forced to network.

Well have I got the solution for you!
Before you dismiss this post with an excuse, let me tell you that I have heard nearly every excuse in the book in order to avoid networking:
  • I’m only a student and have nothing to offer to the conversation
  • I’m an inexperienced practitioner with no stories to tell
  • I hate meeting new people and would rather paint the toes of my mother-in-law than go to a networking event

What you may not realize is that your student status, your inexperience and your fear are levers that will enable you to become a master networker. People love nothing more than to share their story and if you can sneak in the fact that you are new to the profession or a student it will make them even more excited as they get a chance to shape tomorrow’s leaders.

Pareto Principle for Networking
Now, I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that you have heard of the Pareto Principle. You may have heard of it referred to the 80/20 rule as well. So, what does the Pareto Principle have to do with this post?  Once again, it comes to the rescue as the magical mathematical solution and this time it’s for networking.

Listen = 80%          Talk = 20%  

I practiced this technique for two years while I was still studying as I attended every event that didn’t clash with a class. I learned a hell of a lot from people who’d already been there, done that and bought the postcard. People appreciated my listening skills and they introduced me to their networks which in turn has widened my circle substantially. It also branded me as the passionate and engaged HR student in the community and opened up several doors for me. All of this was generated from being courteous enough to listen to somebody else.
Strike with a Confident Hand

Over time you will build up your own library of stories and you can start to part your wisdom but, until, then I urge you to attend, strike with a confident shake of the hand and listen like you’ve never listened before.

Damon is our Women of HR Featured Contributor this week. Click over to meet him and see what he has to say about himself, his career, and his views on the workplace and the women in it.  
Photo Source: Flickr

About the Author

Damon Klotz

A young man who wears many hats and owns many jackets (far too many for the warm beaches of Australia). I spend a few days a week working in the digital marketing space as a Global Social Media Strategist for an Australian based multi-national, a few days a week shaping the future of the Human Resources profession and a few days a week as a social entrepreneur in the men's mental health space.

6 Comments

Mark Roberts

Thanks for giving the ‘Photo Source’ link back to my flickr.com webpage…

The image is pretty popular and this is the only site I’ve seen which acknowledges the source.

Reply
Damon Klotz

Andrea, completely agree that students who can network differentiate themself straight away!

I think in some ways this post is a part 1. on the introduction to networking. Part 2. would be about how to maximise your impact during your 20% talking time and asking the right questions and asking questions that reflects upon what they are saying.

You also hit another great point which could make a 3rd post which is about the reciprocity of networking. Show how you can add value and ask if you can help them and then your time will come and your shoulder will be tapped. Just have to be patient.

Asking for jobs and contacts at a networking event is a bit like starting your resume with your career objective. Straight away you are listing of your demands to potential employers. I start of showing them what problems I can solve for them. If you really want to impress them then solve a problem that they didn’t even know was a problem yet!

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Andrea Ballard

Damon, Thanks for this post. I go to a lot of college recruiting events and am always impressed by the students who know how to network. They approach me and ask things like “What is your experience like on our campus? How do our students/classes/clubs compare to other schools where you recruit? What can we do to make campus recruiting a better experience for you? How can I help you spread the word about your company to my classmates and professors?” Great questions that lead to a great conversation. Compare that to “Hi. I’m looking for a job. Are you hiring anyone?” What a difference!

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Micaela Amabile

Some great tips there Damon! Networking doesn’t sound so daunting when you break it down to the art of listening more ad talking less. I’ll definitely be taking you up on these tips and hope to hear plenty more.

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