How to Ace the Art of Networking as an International Student

Graduate jobs

November 07, 2019

Being an international student, networking is tricky: you have to make adjustments for the cultural differences, act fast, and make sure the conversation has a recall value.

If you’re going to chat up with someone to know more about your field, get job leads or just make new connections, it is important that there’s a balance in the conversation. You shouldn’t sound too desperate or attention-seeking, while simultaneously ensuring you have at least some takeaway!

Rule 1: Be conscious of social barriers. Remember that you are in a different country, and there are people with different backgrounds, nationalities, beliefs and accents here. Be practical in your actions. If you’re unsure of the proper etiquette, observe and follow. If you think your name is too long or complicated, introduce yourself along with a short name to help with recall. You can always remind them who you are with your shorter name, but they need to able to catch your name at least.

Rule 2: Always be on the lookout. As a University student, it isn’t hard to find networking events: your careers department organises various workshops, talks and events. Student societies and clubs are also active. Try to be strategic about the events you do attend. Also stay on top of things and find out what’s kosher.

Rule 3: Pile on business cards, but sensibly. Don’t just hop from one person to another- make sure every business card that goes into your pocket will lead to something. That ‘something’ could be a connection to a potential employer, a potential job or maybe a freelance assignment or internship at the very least.

Rule 4: Leave a mark. Whenever you meet someone, don’t just exchange pleasantries. Do your research about who’s coming to the event beforehand. This way you’ll have something to talk about, or, even better, break the ice and have a conversation with a recall value.Don’t jeopardise your chance by appearing stalker-ish either, though. Don’t leave a legacy of awkwardness either, as a conversation closer.

Rule 5: Connections without context are futile. Keep your elevator pitch ready, but don’t go bonkers sticking to it. Be spontaneous in customising your pitch according to the managerial level you’re talking to and provide some details as to why you are approaching someone. If you are keen on working for their organisation, make it clear and be specific in your questions. If you’re just looking for information about your field, try and start from the people in the lower ends of the hierarchy before approaching someone important. 

Rule 6: Hunt the lone wolf. Basically, don’t crowd around a person, and instead use that time to approach people who are alone. They’d be happy to have someone to talk to, and won’t get frustrated if you shoot questions like bullets. Try common interests, and you’re good to go!

Rule 7: Follow-up. Always follow-up any in-person networking and/or socialising with social media connections. If you met a lot of people, it would be good to talk about the context and then send them a LinkedIn request or an email the next day. If you were promised something substantial in return, follow-through with the request. If you are just generally connecting, mention that it was nice meeting them, and that you hope that they don’t mind you dropping every once in a while to ask for advice.

It’s the little things!

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