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Networking tips for marketing graduates

By Sarah Bloomfield on 24.02.16 in Career

Building and maintaining a strong business network is absolutely critical to your professional success. However, as a recent graduate, the prospect of having to 'network' might seem daunting - especially since you will need to gain access to the key people and information in the marketing industry. The real world of work is a far cry from the classroom; so the sooner you start building your contacts, the better. 

Indeed, as a job seeker, networking is important in this 'buyer's market'. Employers have the pick of the bunch of highly qualified and keen candidates that are raring to go. Gone are the days when employers had to go fishing for the best candidates. Quite simply - a lot of jobs come from referrals that come from networking. Most HR managers and recruitment consultants will look through their own networks to identify some possibilities before the job goes public. 

However, building a network isn't as hard as it seems. If you follow our top tips, you will soon see your connections building and perhaps even a door opening to your dream job. 

Set up your LinkedIn profile 

LinkedIn is the online social media-networking platform for professionals. Everyone should have a profile. Make sure you fill in your profile thoroughly, include a decent professional photograph and customise your URL. Remember to add keywords into your job description, which will make you stand out in recruiter searches. We have written a comprehensive blog post (Build a LinkedIn profile) on creating the perfect profile, so take some time to read it before you start. But remember, LinkedIn is your professional network; so don't add everyone who is on your Facebook! 

Check your existing network 

The best way to embark on your networking mission is to make a list of everyone you know - be it family, friends, classmates, lecturers and people you met during your work placements and internships. You will be surprised how well connected you already are. Never forget the power of 'who you know'. If you have had work placements or internships at marketing agencies whilst you were at university, then this is the ideal place to start. 

Furthermore, get connected with graduate and marketing recruiters - they are very active on LinkedIn and will be able to see your profile updates. It might be a good idea to choose a couple and send them an email introducing yourself and explaining that you are currently studying and that you are looking for some advice on how to break into the marketing industry. A good recruiter will take some time out to respond - it is in their interest to nurture the next generation of marketers. 

Get a business card 

This might seem a little strange given you are at the start of your career, but having a smart, professional card to hand to people at events is an advantage. It shows professionalism and for-thought. Much better than scribbling down people's contact details on scraps of paper.  Aside from your name, email and phone number, put a couple of other useful details for example: copywriting for newsletters, brochures and flyers. Keep it plain and simple - no crazy colours or distracting designs.

However, just because you have a business card, it doesn't mean you should hand it out to all and sundry. Rather, save them for the end of a conversation that you feel has gone well. You could say something along the lines of "thank you for such an interesting conversation. I would really like the opportunity to keep in touch. May I give you my card?" You might even get a card in return.

An insider tip:when you receive a business card from someone, take a moment after parting to write down the date and a couple of brief memory-joggers, so that when you come to look back, you'll know who they were. 

Go to networking events 

There are some so-called celebrities that go to the opening of an envelope. Some laugh at them, but actually they are keeping themselves in the spotlight and in the papers by doing this. You want to adopt a similar approach. Go to as many industry events as you can, give out your card to the right people, talk to as wide a variety as possible and become recognised. If you prove your enthusiasm and determination you will win through, as these are qualities every marketer should possess. 

Be prepared for your networking event - some top tips 

• Before you attend a networking event, decide what you have to give, conversationally speaking. Think about your expertise, key skills and strengths.
• Listen generously. Be alert for needs so you can offer an idea or an introduction
• Don't assume that because you are just graduating, you have nothing to give.
• Do some research into the agencies and companies attending and their work
• Be aware of 'hot marketing topics' that are in the news.
• Choose a smart, professional outfit, shine your shoes and make sure your appearance is neat and smart.
• A firm handshake and good eye contact are essential and remember to speak clearly.
• Be prepared to ask about things you want to find out, learn, or connect with.
• Show interest in the people you are talking to
• Collect business cards from those you meet and connect with them on LinkedIn when you get home. 

Questions you might ask 

There is nothing worse than being tongue-tied at a networking event, so having some questions up your sleeve will prevent an awkward silence - it is beneficial too if you're a shy type. Here are a few to get you started: 

• How did you get into marketing?
• What are you currently working on?
• What do you look for in candidates?
• Is there any advice you can share with me?
• What is it that you enjoy most about your job / what makes it enjoyable? 

Explain what sort of job you're looking for 

People will ask you, "What do you want to do?" How you answer that question determines whether you'll instantly start an interesting, productive conversation or one that just limps along. Never, ever say, "I'll do anything." However, don't say the job title you are aiming for either.  Instead tell them something you want them to remember about you that will bring your job search to life. For example you could say ' I designed a marketing programme for a local estate agent when I worked for them in the summer holiday, or discuss the dissertation topic you have chosen and some of the things you plan to include. But remember to stick to the facts and don't embellish the truth. 

Lastly, remember networks are created conversation by conversation. Think of networking as a way of teaching people who you are and providing them with information about your character and competence. Use examples to demonstrate your skills and expertise - but remember too that networking has to be mutually beneficial. Don't just talk at them; spend time and energy listening and asking questions that show you're interested in them too. When you build relationships with the future in mind, you'll see your networking efforts pay off with great career opportunities.