25 February 2022
I recently met with a graduate who had started their first job during lockdown. After months of remote working, they were worried about meeting in-person with colleagues for the first time. Networking in a hybrid working world is a graduate reality for the Class of 2021 and beyond, so let’s review tips to help you ease into your first job – or even just a new job - in a post Covid world.
The first networking barrier to break through is often ourselves. Putting yourself out there, and meeting new people is scary, especially when it feels like everyone else in the office or event knows what they are doing. This is called Imposter Syndrome, and Career Cake have shared some great tips for beating it. Feeling shy in new situations is completely normal but try and reframe your thinking to view networking as an opportunity to be heard, not an experience to be feared. Retake your Career Pulse to remind yourself of how employability confident you are and take positive action to develop strengths in areas that may be holding you back.
Students often tell me they don’t know how to network, but you’re already doing this every day, via Teams and email, and on campus. You work with students and staff from all over the world, sharing information and ideas and a passion for your subject. In the world of work, we’re surrounded by similar opportunities, and it’s not always a formal meeting situation. Chatting to colleagues as you make tea, small talk with strangers as you wait in line at the canteen: these are all networking moments, and some situations will feel more comfortable than others. Take a moment to reflect on the strategies that work for you and how you might apply these in remote and in-person meetings.
Now that you’ve identified the situations where you feel most at ease in talking to others, consider how you can engineer networking opportunities, so they feel more accessible. For example, if you’ve identified that you feel happiest while chatting in Starbucks, then arrange to meet a colleague at the start of the day and then you can go into the office together. This strategy is ideal if you are feeling shy about meeting colleagues ‘in real life’ after months of remote working. You can apply this tactic at events too: place yourself strategically near the tea and coffee, and smile at people as they pass by. You’ll find it’s easy to make connections as everyone drifts over there at least once during the event.
Don’t overthink how to get the conversation started, small talk about the weather, or asking about their journey to the office/event is a great place to start. Check out this Conversation Starters Cheat Sheet and don’t feel obliged to do all the talking: ask open ended questions and they’ll fill the conversation space while you take it all in. If you’re feeling nervous about your first day at work, ask colleagues how long they have worked there and if they have any top tips for getting settled in. Use positive body language to show you’re engaged, and don’t be shy about sharing your own experiences/ideas so they can get to know you better too. And when the conversation draws to a natural close, show your genuine pleasure in meeting them and ask for relevant contact details (email, LinkedIn etc.) so that you can keep in touch or follow up on anything that came up in your discussion.
Ultimately networking helps you to make connections that will grow your career. It’s also an important part of workplace innovation - even short interactions can generate big ideas. So do try to use these links and tips to practice your networking at events like our Futures Festival: Graduate Edition, and throughout your time at ARU.
Khrieu Healy, Employability & Careers Adviser
Our Employability Service works with students throughout their time at ARU and after they graduate. The Service offers careers advice, online resources, and help with job searches, applications and interview preparation. Our Employability & Careers Advisers may mention some of these resources and services in their blogs, to give you an idea of the careers support that's on offer at ARU. Some of these resources sit behind a log in and can only be accessed by current students.