Posted on November 15, 2021
#internationalstudents #networkingskill101 #studyabroad 

Networking is an extremely useful skill, irrespective of what level you are at in your career. But for freshers and graduates trying to figure out their career interests and land their first jobs, networking can be the stepping stone to future opportunities, mentoring by industry experts, or even their ticket to a visa-sponsored job role!

As an international student, it can feel intimidating to reach out and network. Networking is not an easy thing anyway. As we attend more hybrid and remote events, networking also looks very different from the traditional exchange of business cards. When you’re an international student, there’s the added anxiety about knowing/not knowing the cultural mores. 

Yet, networking is a crucial professional skill, not just in your job search but also in your career after that. The activity of developing professional or social contacts can help in boosting your profile as a salesperson, as a marketer, as a banker, as a researcher...you get the drift. 

So, how can you optimize your networking to reap the benefits of community, connectedness, opportunities’ access, and growth? Here are five tips to help you hack the networking game. 

Attend events & webinars 

Attend events & webinars 

Attend career fairs, company presentations, webinars, panels, and other events that are related to your chosen field. Such events are a great way to enhance your knowledge about the area in a semi-formal setting, boost your skill set, and meet people with similar interests. Make an effort to strike a conversation with the panelists, speakers or organizers of the event(s), leaving room to contact them afterwards for a longer discussion. 

Often, universities and other organisations will conduct speed networking sessions specifically for students. Make a note to attend these events as such sessions often invite notable alumni and leaders from the field who are happy to chat with you in a candid setting. Your alumni network can be a real treasure trove. This exercise can give you a window to get comfortable with reaching out to strangers too.

Follow-up

Irrespective of whether you met someone at a virtual event or in-person, whether you met them at a networking event or just attended an event they spoke at, always follow up with a note over email or on social media. Make this time, as you want to reinforce your conversation/connection before they forget about the event or having met you. 

Here’s a template you can use for your follow-up message when connecting on social media or email:

Hi [Name]

It was so great to hear you/talk with you about [topic] at the [event details] on [day]. The student from the University of Oxford asked you about [a recall of the things you discussed to help them identify you].

Thank you for such a fantastic talk & insights. I would love to stay in touch and follow your work at [project/company they mentioned]; I hope that’s okay. 

Have a great day. 

Regards,

[Name]

Leverage Social Media to Foster Connections

social media for connections

Social media can be used for following up after a meeting at an event. Social media like Twitter and LinkedIn can also be used to start a connection! All you have to do is start having conversations with thought leaders in your industry. 

Connect with them or follow them, and regularly drop by with your thoughts on the same topics that they discuss. Tag them, reshare them, engage with them on their posts. Respond, especially, to the positions they write about the field & ask them questions or thank them in the comments. 

Leaving public comments allows you to be discovered by others in their network, too. You can learn a lot through observation and absorption online; you have to find the right people to follow & communities to join.

Arrange informational interviews

Informational Interviews are the next step after textual exchanges online. As the Name suggests, informational interviews help you gather information from someone working in the field or company in which you plan to build a career. After creating an initial rapport with someone over emails or social media, it’s a good exercise to ask them — if they have the time — to chat with you over a cup of coffee or on a zoom call to “pick their brain.”

You can get answers over emails, but there’s no substitute for sitting across from another person and having a conversation. This is applicable for both the people you’ve met before and have stayed in touch with online, as well as people you’ve never met but only ever connected online. 

A good time to arrange informational interviews is correct before you’re planning to apply to their company for an opening. It helps assess what the organisational culture is like from the inside. Rarely, there can also be an offer to shadow them at work, so you can get an even better peek into the everyday life of a professional in your field. 

Networking as Relationship Building

networking as relationship building

There are many reasons you should think of networking as relationship building. For one, if you think you’ll reap immediate rewards by attending one networking event, you’ll be disappointed. Networking benefits only materialise after some time of nurturing professional relationships. 

Secondly, you should always look at networking in terms of what you can bring to the table. Focus on how you can be of help. This way, the other person will owe you a favor that you can redeem sometime in the future. 

More importantly, relationship building is long-term. It does not always lead to job opportunities; it can also be access to other perks, events, resources, guidance, mentoring. Stay open to possibilities. 

Written by Kritika Narula, marketing & content strategist at Student Circus.

Student Circus is an award-winning employability platform that helps boost international student careers globally. With filtered visa-enabled opportunities for graduates, the platform presents the first-of-its-kind solution for international students from 45+ partner universities in the UK, many of whom have landed jobs at KPMG, Deloitte, Blackrock, Rolls Royce, PwC, EY, among others.

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