How do you get over that sense of nervousness about approaching someone you don’t know in a professional setting? How do you work out what to do and what to say without feeling like a fool?
Thanks to the generosity of 18 AUT alumni, dozens of students got the opportunity to practise their networking skills last week by attending ‘So you think you can network’ event at City Campus. The alumni ‘employers’ were approached by students at the relaxed event which included an icebreaker before rotating through a speed networking activity. The activity gave the students five turns at meeting someone new and practising their elevator pitch and general communication skills.
Fourth year Management and Sustainable Enterprise student Ben Cooper says the chance to gain insights into how to present the best possible image of himself to employers and other potential connections drew him to the event. While not particularly nervous of networking, he knew it wasn’t a strength.
“From what I learned at the event, the ability to confidently and concisely speak my interests is an important skill, so this is something that I will work on. I did notice becoming more concise and clearer as I received advice from the alumni that I was speaking to. This is probably the area that I will focus more on in the future as well.”
Fourth year communication studies and business student Abigail Dell'Avo had never networked in a professional setting before. Although she initially signed up to increase her AUT Edge Award hours, she quickly found it very beneficial.
“It was a very cool experience. The main feedback I got was to be more straightforward and ask for opportunities. Despite never having networked before, I didn't find it too nerve wracking. I’ve also realised I need to get better at remembering names and remembering to add people on LinkedIn,” says Abigail.
Meg Beck, arts and business conjoint student, decided to attend to push herself outside her comfort zone and make connections with her industry to see if she was on the right path.
“I think it's important to tackle these kinds of things with gusto!” says Meg, adding that what she learned was to make a more human connection with the person she was pitching to. “Once I fixed the connection issue I was seen as pretty ideal.”
ANZ Head of Customer Experience Paul Carle decided to volunteer for the event because he valued AUT’s practical approach when he was a student and wanted to give back by sharing some of the things he learned.
“As a student I was worried networking was a social skill I wouldn’t be good at because it put me out of my comfort zone. But there are many ways you can network and some of the best networking can happen without you knowing by people singing your praises. So focus on making a positive impression, working hard to show your value and keeping in touch with people you meet along the way,” advises Paul.
He was impressed with the students who were confident to talk about themselves and asked questions.
“A good tip to remember: be interested and interesting!”
Alumni Antony Vavia participated because he wanted to offer the view point of marine and ecology employment. Antony works as a part time research assistant and data collector at National Institute for Water and Atmospheric, while doing a PhD in Marine Biology.
He enjoyed the event, saying the time allocation for the speed interviewing made the students concentrate on their elevator pitch.“I think the event ran smoothly from the get-go. It was real straight forward. It almost facilitated itself.”
Jai Krishna from AUT Events says having alumni, who’d graduated sometime within the last 10 years, was a great idea because it gave students perspectives from different generations.
“As a student I didn’t hesitate to meet and interact with employers and other professionals. But unless I could connect with what the other person had to say, I would feel a gap in what we were trying to communicate to each other. That was something to learn and a point I kept in my mind when I attended this networking event.”
Jai also saw it as an opportunity to network with other alumni professionals who’d graduated before he did and discuss the employment market and changing employer mindsets.
Employability & Careers manager Serena Tiaiti organised the event to assist AUT students engage in meaningful conversations with Alumni in a fun yet structured environment. “It benefits students to practice their elevator pitch with Alumni in order to build confidence for them to engage with employers.”
This was one of 20 events run over Employability Matters, a week of events highlighting employability skills and industry trends with panels, speakers – along with networking events. Anyone interested in being involved in Employability events at AUT can contact email@example.com