Tracey Binnie is a 2nd year computing student at Edinburgh Napier. She got involved in loads of Connect and Interconnect activities in her first year as well as taking part in events with other relevant organisations. Tracey shares what she has learned about networking below.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from people at the various events I’ve attended, it’s this: don’t be shy to sing your own praises and promote yourself. Despite being a little on the shy side when introducing myself to new people, I’m determined to go places after graduation and I think it makes total sense to plan my route right at the very beginning of my journey. Today I’d like to share with you some excellent tips that I’ve picked up so far:
1. Web Presence
LinkedIn has become very important in recent years, so a profile filled with as much information possible is a must. If you’re on Twitter, it’s also very easy to create and manage a separate, professional account if you want to keep your personal life separate. The vast amount of social media sites out there is overwhelming, but with a bit of patience your online presence is very easy to set up and maintain. I set up an About.me page, which acts as a handy starting point for all the social media sites I’m signed up to and also includes a link to my biography.
However, maintaining so many profiles can get messy so I decided to buy myself a domain and set up a website. My site mainly features my blog and also showcases everything I’m involved in. With so many fantastic website building tools out there, trust me when I say putting a website together is easier than you think. For example, WordPress has a lot of handy tools to help novices build a decent looking site and its modular design means you can cobble something together in minutes with just a little bit of drag and drop.
2. Business Cards
The first time I was asked for my card (by the wonderful Dr Sue Black, no less) I was really flattered that someone would actually ask me for one! When I mentioned that I didn’t have any, Dr Black strongly advised me to order some cards as they come in very useful at networking events and will help the people you meet to remember who you are. I took her up on her advice and now hand my cards out on a regular basis.
In addition to sticking a mugshot on the card to help with the whole names-to-faces thing, I added my course and university details, website, email address, Twitter name, phone number and About.me page. I’ve picked up quite a few business cards from people I’ve met at events and find them very handy, usually when I’m talking about someone I’ve met and I need to remind myself of their details!
My first big event was Target Jobs’s November 2012 event IT’s Not Just For The Boys! in London. The event was primarily a careers event made up of around 120 STEM students and representatives from many different companies. I was lucky enough to be invited along and thoroughly enjoyed myself, taking advantage of the opportunity to network like mad and make some good contacts. I also attended the BCS Women Scotland Kickoff event and enjoy the university’s Tech Talks, hosted by the Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation (IIDI). The Connect networking events are always very enjoyable and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed mingling with STEM students and staff throughout the academic year.
The sheer amount of events and networking opportunities there are for female STEM students is absolutely wonderful. There are literally dozens of industry events every month where students are welcome and I would actively encourage you to attend as many as possible.
Don’t be scared if you’ve just started your degree – I got stuck in as soon as I started university and I’m already reaping the benefits. From what I’ve experienced, people tend to be impressed with students taking the opportunity to attend events and network from the off and I truly believe that keeping up the momentum is beneficial to your future career. The more you’re seen at events, the more likely people are to remember you and it’s a fantastic – and cheap! – way to build up a professional network. Keep an eye out for any events your university is running, but don’t be shy to go along to any events held in your area. I like to keep an eye on Eventbrite to see what’s coming up and they also offer a good smartphone app.
I hope you find the above advice useful and have as much fun as I do schmoozing with our peers!