Networking is not only fun but it can be personally and professionally rewarding. It’s the art of making useful contacts and meeting interesting people.
A significant number of key jobs are awarded through a personal contact rather than a professional application process and any contact may be directly or indirectly instrumental in your career in the future.
Introducing your friends to one another is a form of networking, in turn allowing each person involved to make new friends.
Face-to-face meetings are a critical part of networking and tools including teleconferencing, email and even social media are means of facilitating, not replacing meetings in person.
1. For face-to-face networking in a professional setting, business cards and any literature relevant to why you are attending are expected. Business cards are best kept simple in order to communicate who you are and what you do professionally:
• Name, phone number and email address
• A relevant professional title such as “graduate mining engineer”
2. Your email signature needs to be just as clear e.g.:
Graduate Geologist BSc Hons (Cardiff) June 2012
M: + 44 XXX XXXX – country code if you are emailing to overseas companies
3. You have probably heard the term elevator pitch or 60 second story. These refer to how you will introduce yourself in a business environment and what to say when someone asks you “What do you do?” Have your polished reply ready but don’t be afraid to improvise and stay relevant.
Where to network
Attend company visits and events through your university or alumni. Use WIM (UK) events to meet other people who work in the industry. Ask people you meet for suggestions, and invite them to events you plan to attend.
Regional and London-based technical seminars such as the Geological Society or conference-style events like MineAfrica and Mines & Money are ideal.
The Natural History Museum, ICMM, IOM3 and MinSouth are all worth checking regularly. If you are of a banking or finance background, many technical events are useful for making contacts. For example, the Association of Mining Analysts provides a regularly updated calendar, as do WIM (UK). It is common for paying-in events to offer manageable discounted tickets or free entry for undergraduates.
Make the right entrance
Walking into a room full of people and striking up conversation can be daunting, but in today’s business environment, you will do this regularly.
Walking with confidence and taking your time will help you to relax. Other people in attendance will know what you are experiencing and perhaps feel the same. Approached in the right way, most people are forthcoming. They are often there for the same reasons you are.
If you are attending a seated presentation, be sure to introduce yourself to your seated companions.
Dressing in professional wear is important. Having joined a business environment, it is respectful to dress appropriately. A tidy appearance and positive disposition makes you more approachable.
Show an interest
Engage with those around you and don’t wait for them to come to you. By asking what they do, if they have attended the event before, and learning how to make selective small talk without feeling uncomfortable, you will find common ground and develop conversation. Among peers, share common interests such as your degree and your university. With more senior attendees, take an interest in what it is that they do in terms of career and listen to the advice that they impart. Before you part company, give them your card.
After the event
Follow up with an e mail to remind those you have encountered that you enjoyed meeting them and attending the meeting. Personalise these emails but keep them short and polite.
File contacts in a business address book. They are valuable and cultivating relationships will depend on your being organised and maintaining communication after your first meeting.