Cath Bushell, Enterprise Manager, answers the question ‘Is there value in networking?’ …
No-one really tells you in your first job how important and rewarding creating a network around you can be. Too often you might find yourself feeling as though you are simply there to complete the tasks you are given and to sit at your desk until you do. And while of course you need to complete your work, make sure you use every opportunity to develop your network, both while you are working, but also while you are still here in Cardiff Uni as a student.
People you meet at training courses, in societies or community groups, work events, collaborative projects etc are worth getting to know and may become very helpful people to be in touch with in the future when you are struggling with a project and looking for someone with knowledge in a particular field. However, this whole process of networking can be rather intimidating at first.
I’ve just spent a very pleasant day meeting up with colleagues from Universities and Colleges across Wales who work within enterprise education. I meet many of them once or twice a year at most, but despite this I see this network, along with those I know in the field across the rest of the UK, as an essential resource within my current job. I can pick up the phone or email anytime and get ideas, suggestions and help and support.
Building an effective network is not just about your sales pitch, whether about yourself or your company, or simply about collecting business cards (though these can be a useful memory-aid), but should be about building rapport with people and getting to know them and their knowledge and experience. So try not to go aggressively armed with your business cards to every party and event, but do take the time to talk to people you meet, even when you can’t see an immediate link to your future plans. It’s not simply about finding the contact who will give you your next job, but building a supportive network.
With my network, I started off exchanging small talk and business cards, slightly intimidated by those in the group who clearly knew each other well and were exchanging handshakes and hugs and continuing conversations from the last time they met. Building a network is really just about being interested in people and what they do and not trying too hard! Be pleasant and polite and other people will be happy to talk to you and share their thoughts and ideas. It’s not too scary.
Do this well and you will find your network soon becomes a constantly developing collection of professional relationships and friendships, not simply a drawer full of business cards. Don’t be afraid at the next event you attend to go and talk to the quiet person in the corner – who knows when you might need their advice or expertise in the future.
Filling out the feedback form for the event today, I was asked ”What was the most useful thing about today’s event?” . As always (and with no slight intended on the workshop presenters!) The answer had to be: “Networking”.
If you want to start to build you network and develop your skills at the same time, why not get involved in some Enterprise events coming up:
- Ignite 19th to 22nd February
- Successful Networking session, 23 Feb at 12noon, Students’ Union
- Concept 30th March to 2nd April
Cath, Cardiff University Enterprise Part of Careers & Employability
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