TARGETjobs writes for Compare The Uni- Networking skills!

University Skills: Networking- that's what friends are for! 

Meeting new friends at uni is fun, and it could set you up for life too, says TARGETjobs

As you prepare to go to university and face a world full of firsts; first time leaving home, cooking and cleaning after yourself for the first time or managing your finance, the last thing on your mind is that your first day at university is the day you start your career.

This needn’t be serious.  Simply by being at uni, you’ll pick up skills that help you get a job. But you need to be aware of what these skills are and how to develop them.  

This month we cover how making new friends at uni develops your networking skills.

Networking skills involve building relationships with people, keeping communication open between you and your network, being polite and useful but also knowing when it is appropriate to ask for favours. Networking can open doors to many work opportunities when you least expect it, make you aware of different cultures, beliefs and skills and make you an all together more rounded individual.

In a world where ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ and with a more globalised work environment a good networker and the many skills you gain from it is a very desirable trait in candidates.

University is a great place to start building these skills as you will be meeting many people from different backgrounds and countries; this is a similar situation for many international employers. So putting your skills into practise now is a good idea to make sure you are a seasoned networker by the end of your studies.

 A good networker follows some simple steps to build their network effectively, and the beauty of it is that you can start building these skills from the minute you are at uni.

Step One. Research

The best networkers out there are always prepared. Before attending a conference or meeting a new client they will try and find out as much as they can about the people they’ll be meeting. This gives you the heads up on any common interests, and ideas of what to discuss.

Start doing this from the word go and you will soon you find yourself researching ahead of events without even realising.

As you set off to your new halls you may have a list of fellow newbies.  Why not add them on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks? By doing your research early on it will mean that you will be well equipped to talk about common interests once you meet, you may find out their preferences, i.e. what football team they support. This will be a useful icebreaker or a great way to fill awkward silences. With the availability of social media networks you could even start talking online well before meeting in person. This again makes meeting them in a person a much easier and pleasant task.

BONUS POINT: Using social media to research is a sign you’re aware of the growing networks available online.

Step Two: Stay polite and don’t expect a blossoming friendship with everyone you meet

Not everyone you meet at uni will be a best bud. This needn’t be a problem, by showing an interest in what others do you will still be able to create a useful connection.  Keep their number, make courteous chit chat if passing them on the street, and invite them to nights out and other social events. By maintaining some level of polite communication, you are inadvertently “grooming” your network. This is important as it may open doors in the future, and we don’t just mean to great parties but to work experience, helping on exciting projects, or to asking favours. 

Remember graphic design student Mark, who you met in your first year and with whom you regular exchange emails? He may be just the right person to create some funky business cards for your upcoming interview.

This same principle comes into play in the work environment; an acquaintance from a conference may one day be the person calling you up to let you know of new job openings and opportunities.

Keep regular communication with your network and you never know what your network may end up doing for you in the future. 

So there you have it, without realising going to university is the best place to start building your network and putting those two simple steps into practise.

Next month:  how a student loan can teach you budgeting and prioritising.

In the meantime here are all the skills recruiters look for! Have a look at our careers advice pages to see what else you can learn along the way!