Networking is a great way of gaining work experience, regardless if you're a first year undergraduate, a graduate, or a professional with experience in your field. It allows you to meet people within your chosen career area, let them find out about you and what you've got to offer, and can lead to more contacts. Your friends, lecturers, parents and parents' friends - even your local MP - can all provide excellent networking opportunities. Networking with the University's alumni, through the Career Mentoring scheme, can link you with one of the University's graduates, to advise you on your chosen career path.
How to make the most of networking opportunities
When you meet with someone with whom you wish to network, you can ask, "Will you help me to obtain advice? Do you know anyone doing this type of work, or do you know anyone who would know anyone doing this work?"
When you visit your contact, you may wish to obtain names of others in the same field, and from them more contacts, so that you will soon know and be known by a large number of the significant people in the field you are researching.
Networking and work shadowing - what questions to ask?
If you're only meeting someone for a short time, you need to prepare ahead and do your homework. Some questions to ask might include:
- What is the nature of the work? What actually happens day-to-day? You need to push for concrete detail, and don't be put off with generalisations.
- How long has your contact been doing the job? What did they do before? How did their previous experience help get the job? Is there a relevant degree subject or vocational training, or doesn't it matter?
- How mobile is your contact - ie what opportunities are there for promotion or for doing similar or related work elsewhere?
- What are the skills and interests which make a person successful in the work? Towards the end of the interview, if things have gone well, it is often productive to ask, "If someone with my background and interests applied, how would they be viewed by a prospective employer?"
- What satisfactions are available from the work? What are the negative aspects?
- Could you be given the names of other people who could give research interviews of the same kind? Would your contact mind his or her name being used?
- What are some of the principal difficulties the organisation faces, and how are they dealing with them?
At the end of the interview you might like to ask if they could recommend a couple of other people that you could speak with (to ask similar questions), and when you contact these folks start with "X said I contact you".