Today’s post highlights what graduates can learn from experienced business owners and sales staff who network effectively. There’s also two things you can do to help graduates make a great first impression? Welcome back, or if you’re new here and like what you find sign up to the RSS feed at the top right of this page.
What is it about networking that concerns graduates and seasoned business owners? A recent survey* of graduates discovered 38% said that networking is the number one thing that will help them in their career. I don’t meet many graduates online or offline, perhaps they’re too scared to network with new people. I think they lack the confidence.
58% of business owners that took part in a different survey** were concerned that they were considered the same as the competition when networking. 23% said there were annoyed when people gave them the hard sell at networking events. Does this also prevent people from starting conversations with new contacts?
If I sell myself who am I annoying?
Trying to persuade people that you are “better” than your competitors will only work if you are considered to be different. A good way to do this is to engage them rather than selling to them. Otherwise, you may annoy the one person that could help you most – they could be hidden in the 23%. It’s possible to annoy nearly a quarter of those you meet if they think you are selling. You might think you’ve been discreet. It’s what they think that counts.
Conversely, other networkers aren’t annoying anyone. They don’t want to be seen as selling yet they don’t know how to differentiate themselves from the competition. Some will be paralysed by the fear that they will be seen as selling when trying to make salient points. Do they end up talking to the same people when they’re at events? This won’t help them meet the people they need to. It can’t be considered effective, will they eventually give up?
What can you do to help graduates you know?
Should face to face networking be on the curriculum? Or will they stick with Facebook regardless of what they’re taught? I think they will get out there when they realise that investments are based on trust. Their careers officers let them know that they need to build that trust in interviews. Trust takes longer to build online. Most “big ticket” purchases (especially giving someone a job which is a huge investment) follow face to face connecting.
There are a lot of decision makers active in online forums. It’s difficult to get their attention. If you are a networker and know a student let them know how you engage with people you meet online. This may give them the opportunity to show what they have to offer. Then they can extend this opportunity to offline networks.
Should we encourage graduates to network online?
Or should we take them offline? The students will learn by trial and error. They have probably met people using the internet and are unlikely to get stuck in cliques when they take their networking offline
They shouldn’t restrict their offline networking to business networking forums or events. A new employer will want them to be engaging and the tools you give them could open a door for them. Even if they initially meet them in an online or social setting.
Wrap up: Students are probably online already and letting them start where they are most comfortable will break them in gently. Fortune favours the brave and I would encourage every student to start looking into the online business networks before extending themselves into “real life” events. Then they can practice the tips in a social setting?
Top Tip: It’s all about that all important Personal Brand. Show a student how to work out what they have to offer and how to make sure it packs a punch. These two combined will help them make sure that their brand is “sticky”. They probably know what that means.