Careers oriented events and competitions, like the gradireland National Student Challenge, offer the twin opportunities of making crucial career connections with those that can offer you a job while also giving you the opportunity to find out important information about specific industries where your career path may lie. So, let’s look at some networking basis to help you make those all-important connections.
How to ‘break the ice’
Recruiters and representatives from companies attend careers related events expressly with the mission of meeting students and graduates. They are there because of you. A friendly demeanour, smile and a handshake is all you need to make contact, you don’t have to try saying anything earth shattering. Introduce yourself briefly, your area of study and your broad areas of interest and then be prepared to listen. If there are other students already talking to the employer, it’s fine to join in the conversation, in a respectful manner of course. Listen to what’s being said in the conversation and join in if it’s appropriate.
By seeing what companies are attending the National Student Challenge, or indeed any event, you can prepare some questions in advance and you will feel more comfortable in approaching these employers on the day. Employers will be impressed by someone who has done that little bit more ‘homework’ on their organisation and is prepared to listen well, in addition to talking well. For example, if you’re listening to an employer talking to another student, make a mental note of an interesting point that they make and then refer to it when you are introducing yourself (e.g. ‘I was very interested to hear what you were saying about your graduate programme rotations, could you tell me a little more about that?’ Many employers also bring recent graduate hires to these events and they can often be a lot more accessible and relevant to graduates in terms of starting a conversation.
What you shouldn’t do….
If you’re talking to someone, make sure you give them your undivided attention. Using your phone while in conversation, or failing to make eye contact, can come across as disrespectful or rude. If you are using a tablet or laptop to take notes, just say it to the employer beforehand. If you’re in a lecture or at a Q&A session, turn your phone off or put it in your bag on silent.
If you’re shy….
For some people, making introductions can be terrifying, and it’s not something that is easy to a lot of people. Pair up with a fellow student, someone a little less shy perhaps or even ask someone if they could introduce you. Employers know that nerves do occur, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. Also, queues for coffee and food can be great places to strike up informal conversations with people doing exactly the same things as you!