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Career Advice

How to network as a student

Networking is an important way to build connections that can help you both at uni and in your career.

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
23 Aug 2022

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You may think it’s only necessary to start building your network when you graduate but there are several opportunities for you to begin developing this skill while you’re still a student.

Many people find networking daunting. Approaching strangers and starting a conversation doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people so the more practice you get, the more confident you’ll become when you’re out at professional networking events.

Why’s networking important?

Networking is important because it helps you make connections and even friends who can help you in different aspects of life. It lets you share ideas and meet people who have similar interests, and can lead to you finding the right people who can support your growth or even become a mentor.

Most people think about their careers when it comes to networking but building these relationships can help you during your studies too. Students who’ve previously studied the course you’re on or lecturers who have experience in a particular area you’re interested in are both good networks to maintain.

The earlier you begin to network, the sooner you also build your confidence to speak to people and approach individuals you want to be connected to.

Networking tips for students

It’s never too early to start networking. You may not realise it, but your very first work experience placement is a great starting point to meeting professionals – especially if you’re fortunate enough to do your work experience in a field you’re interested in as a career.

While you’re shadowing, try to ask other people in the company questions about their job and build a rapport. People love to talk about themselves, so if you’re a little nervous about making conversation, try asking questions to find out more about them. This can be as simple as “what’s your role like?” or “how long have you worked here?”.

Breaking the ice at the beginning also makes it easier to keep in touch with people when your placement is over.

Use social media to stay connected

A good step is to create a LinkedIn profile. Adding your contacts to your network will let you keep up with changes to their careers. This is important because as they progress, they’ll also build their networks and may be able to recommend you to people if an opportunity comes up.

We’re not condoning social stalking here but LinkedIn’s also a great way to see who your connections know! Go through their lists and see where their connections work and what experience they have. Does any of it echo what you’d like to be doing after university? Does someone work in a job you’d like to eventually hold? Look at their experience, or better yet, reach out to them asking for a few minutes of their time if you have any questions about their line of work or industry.

Professionals usually don’t mind spending time helping young people learn more, especially if they’re enthusiastic. But what if they don’t respond? Ruth Kudzi, a career and success coach, explained in one of her talks that if you don’t get a response, then that person is probably not worth having in your network.

Use every opportunity to build your network

You can also network if you have a part-time job. Find out more about your colleagues – you never know if they have connections they can introduce you to.

Use university open days to connect with potential tutors too. This is a great way to see the kind of topics and posts they publish and talk about, so you can start to follow similar groups, people and platforms that they do. You may also come across student ambassadors or student union representatives you may want to stay connected with if you share similar interests.

Importantly, remember that everyone you meet has their own network. Don’t overlook someone just because you don’t think they may be able to help you build yours.

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