Skip main navigation

Networking at University

Networking doesn’t have to be about ‘talking to strangers’, although that can have its place. Here are some practical ways to build your network in easy or gradual ways, as well as some more direct suggestions.
© University of Surrey

Networking doesn’t have to be about ‘talking to strangers’, although that can have its place. Here are some practical ways to build your network in easy or gradual ways, as well as some more direct suggestions.

Sports and Societies

University gives you the chance to take up or develop activities such as sport, interests and hobbies. Not sure if you’d like a sport or hobby? Consider a trial session, offered by most societies. You could start a club or society of your own if one doesn’t exist for your particular interest.

Volunteering

Volunteering opportunities are all around you at university and in your community. Volunteering will mean you have a set of connections with shared values, as well as building your skills.

Placement Year

A placement year gives you an amazing network of colleagues, inside knowledge of a particular sector and a great understanding of how the professional world works. You can also see modelled around you examples of how people network both within the organisation and outside of it; networking includes building relationships with people from other teams or offices in your organisation (for example, including getting to know potential mentors) and outside, through stakeholder meetings, projects, etc.

Careers Events

Universities have established relationships with employers and other professionals. At the University of Surrey, for example, there are regular events where employers give presentations and invite questions. This can offer you an opportunity to connect with someone on LinkedIn (see below), as well as building your understanding of the world of work. Your university careers service will also be running events such as careers fairs or festivals, where employers come on to campus or meet with students remotely. This is a great chance to ask questions, get to understand opportunities and practice networking in a really safe place (those employers have specifically wanted to engage with you, remember!).

Visiting Lecturers or Other Professionals Associated with Your Course

Your course might have visiting lecturers who work in a field which interests you, or practical sessions run by someone from industry. Consider introducing yourself to them briefly after the lecture to say how interesting you found it, or if that’s too daunting, you could email them, or connect with them on LinkedIn (mentioning where you heard them speak).

These are just some ways that university can open up the field of possibilities to you.

LinkedIn

Another great tool is LinkedIn, a professional network that you can join now (rather than wait until you are an established professional). It’s a great way to not only connect with new people, but to find information. You can look at the profiles of people who work in sectors that interest you, and see what they studied, where they have worked, what extra-curricular activities they do or have done. And of course, LinkedIn also advertises job opportunities, as well as detailed company information, sector interest groups and more. Think of LinkedIn as an investigative tool, primarily, before you think of it as a tool for making job applications. It’s a rich resource which will give you a window into a much broader professional landscape than you might previously have considered.

Careers theory and networking

  • Horizons for action (structural theories): does the idea of learning directly from employers, or attending events, or doing a placement year give you the option to extend your horizons?
  • Planned happenstance – putting yourself in the way of chance encounters could generate new ideas or career paths you hadn’t even thought of.
  • Life-span – hearing an employer who has been with a company for a while talk about their own career journey or the early steps they took can model the various career stages which can inspire you.
© University of Surrey
This article is from the free online

University and Your Future: Career Planning and Making the Most of Your Degree

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education