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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

5 tips for successful networking as a student

The further you go with your studies, you’ll realise how important meeting the right people is. People who can help you with your future career aspirations, people you can learn something from or simply share your experiences with.

Starting a degree at university can be stressful by itself, especially if that implies moving to a different country, learning new language, adjusting to new culture and meeting new people.

If you are like me, the idea of casually chatting with professionals or professors that you don’t personally know might seem like a mission impossible. How do you start a conversation? What do you talk about? How do you present yourself? How to leave a good impression?

Well I think we’ve all been there. But trust me, after you’ve experienced the first couple of interactions, you’ll be giving out your contact details in the blink of an eye.

Here are some ideas about networking and how to overcome the possible social anxiety it brings:

Remember these people started exactly where you are now

No matter if you’re talking to a famous scientist after a conference, a professor from your University or a life coach whose presentation you’ve just seen, all of them had to start somewhere. They were all students at some point, just as lost and insecure as you might be now.

And they are surely aware of that as they also had role models or someone they’ve admired when they were studying. So, if a student approaches them asking for an advice, wanting to get to know them, share contacts, I’m sure they’d be happy to know they left an impact on a young person.

You are here for a reason

The mere fact of you being where you are, means you can do it. It means you have the skills, the persistence and ability to complete your degree.

This means you can definitely talk to whomever you want to, and share your story. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, talk about your ideas and interests, or your research designs.

After you’ve realised how easy it is, you will be able to present yourself with no problem. Just the fact that you’ve approached someone and introduced yourself leaves a positive impression of being confident.

Don’t doubt yourself and look into how to portray your skills and knowledge the best you can. 


You’re improving your soft skills

That type of interaction requires possession and use of certain soft skills. Even though you might now think “I definitely don’t have that”, improving your soft skills comes with experience. Considering networking requires particular conversational discourse, you will definitely be improving your vocabulary and language skills in general.

Even if English is not your first language, that’s okay. English is used as the common language for international communication. Therefore, no one is expecting your second language to be perfect.

With more time, you will get more proficient and you’ll start using business terminology that will definitely be appreciated by your interlocutor and it will boost your confidence too.

In addition, listening to other people sharing their experiences and stories will leave an impact on your communication skills and social intelligence.

You will soon realise how attitudes and reactions play a big role in a formal conversation, which will improve your flexibility and ability to adapt to a given situation.

And there you go, all the words in italic belong to soft skills, which are definitely all qualities you can use for your future employment.

Networking with your colleagues

Many of your school colleagues might someday be your business colleagues.

If you are too scared to talk to someone who is on a higher position than you, try introducing yourself to fellow students that you haven’t met so far.

They may become your friends, and they may just be someone you know and occasionally meet to discuss ideas and future plans. They might become invaluable professional contacts in the future.

Practice makes perfect

It is perfectly normal to feel a bit insecure when approaching people you don’t know. You also might feel a bit silly after the conversation as well, rethinking every sentence you’ve just said.

Don’t be scared of making mistakes, and try not to analyse every word you said. The more people you meet, the better and more confident you’ll get. 


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