“The two defining moments of your success at networking will be your introduction and how you leave that conversation.”
Networking is challenging. No matter where you situate yourself along the introvert-extrovert spectrum, building up a network from scratch is no easy task. Throw in the additional challenge of no existing links and the game radically scales up in difficulty. There are, however, some fundamentals to networking as an international student. I will be touching on 3 of them.
- Emphasise your international identity and use it as a way to standout in conversations. Bringing in additional perspectives and comparing and contrasting two countries, always makes for a more engaging and interesting pitch. Use this at networking events and you’ll be surprised at the positive reaction you receive.
- Show an interest in the local economy and politics and ask employers’ their views. This will show your zeal to expand your knowledge. However, a word of caution regarding the topic of politics, I would avoid bringing in your political views. It should instead be linked to how the politics affects the market or the business that you’re interested in. You’ll probably have a lot to say about these areas from back home, but you need to connect with those who are working and operating here in the UK. There is no need to be a qualified expert, but an informed opinion on Brexit for example, or the performance of the FTSE 100, will set you in good standing with potential employers.
- Finally, you want to steer the conversation towards topics that are your strong suit. Many people feel out of depth, with nothing to contribute to when a conversation shifts to areas in which they are not familiar with. This is entirely normal, and chances are, if you are starting out, many conversations will be based around new concepts/talking points in which you have a very shallow understand of. It also okay to ask for explanations. Employers are more willing to help with understanding than most people think, especially if it involves their expertise. Take the initiative and begin a conversation with someone in an area you can hold strong dialogue with. Be informed to the point of being able to answer questions and build on what they say. Don’t talk at them, but engage with them, show that you are actively listening, as opposed to only listening to reply. Not only will this leave them impressed but it will open up further connections they may know who specialise or operate in your areas of interest.
What has been touched on above is much of what goes on during networking events. However, I personally believe that the two defining moments of your success at networking will be your introduction, and how you leave that conversation. The key to following up successfully is leaving the individual with a positive view of you. So, this includes, greeting with confidence (open body language), keeping eye-contact and smiling. Finally, genuinely thanking them for their time and a kindly worded follow up email, will always help in achieving this objective.