I hate networking, but to get into, and then succeed in, the finance industry it’s vitally important – all the experts say so.

But what is networking, I imagine you might be saying, is it just talking to people?  Well yes & no, so to get a more useful answer, let’s first consider why it’s useful.

Networking is useful because of 2 things:

1 – speaking to people means that you learn things you wouldn’t otherwise know – the latest buzz words, what it’s really like working for company X, or even that company Y is thinking about recruiting but haven’t written their advert yet, and so on.  Really important stuff when trying to get onto a career ladder, or up the next rung, or increase your client list.

2 – it shows people that you are good at research, making contacts, building and maintaining relationships, influencing and persuading and all those transferable skills that make the difference when it comes to how good you are at a job.

So, talking to people is part of networking – without talking to people you don’t get to know the things discussed in 1. But it is directed talking – talking about work, the industry, your studies etc. not just the weather or the quality of the buffet.  It also means talking to people that you might not choose to socially – you aren’t making friends, you’re making business contacts.

To demonstrate the range of skills in 2. the way that you make the contacts is important.  Chatting to someone at a careers fair or a campus-based presentation is certainly better than nothing – but not much.  The only skills you are demonstrating are communication and the ability to walk into the building where the event is.  You have done nothing to research the sector; to find the individual’s name & contact details; to engineer the opportunity to talk; to ask the right questions – and these are the things that the company will find impressive; this is how you set yourself apart.

Of course making a contact is just the start – maintaining and maximising is taking networking to a whole other level – in fact that might be a good topic for a later blog.

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