What to expect from your first networking event

As a 5th year Law and Commerce student, I’ve attended a fair few networking events over my time, but I do remember how scary the first one was! Here’s a couple of things that I wish I knew beforehand...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE IMPORTANT: this is a given, but dress well! Some events will indicate a dress code (e.g. business attire), but some won’t. If the event is being held at uni, chances are it will be a little bit more casual but I still wouldn’t rock up in your trackies and hoodie. It will always be well received if it looks like you have put effort into your appearance. I have also learned it’s good to put your bag down and make sure your hands are empty because…

YOUR HANDSHAKE IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT: It seems like a simple thing, but there is nothing worse than receiving a dead fish or a ring crusher! It’s also really important to make eye contact with the person you are shaking hands with, as behind your appearance this is the next impression the employer will make. If you aren’t confident with your shake, go around your flat or hall practicing shaking people’s hands and looking them in the eye. It also wouldn’t hurt to practice your intro line – a solid “Hi I’m Tayla, nice to meet you” is very simple but I have tripped over my name when I’ve been nervous before! So – practice! And most importantly, never, N-E-V-E-R be a dead fish!

HAVE THREE THINGS ABOUT YOU IN MIND: I’m not going to lie, recruitment events can be a little awkward at first! If the conversation doesn’t flow automatically, I can guarantee you will be asked the dreaded “So tell me about yourself” question, and you don’t want to stand there without a decent answer! I would recommend thinking about three interesting points about yourself beforehand, then you’ll be able to fall back on them if there is a lull in the conversation – a great combination is: what you study; what sports/hobbies you have outside of uni; and another interesting point about yourself!

DON’T EXPECT ONE-ON-ONE TIME: This isn’t to say you won’t have it, but most of the networking events I have attended have quite a lot of students and not so many employers, so people usually form small groups around an employer. Don’t be intimidated by this, having other students with you can sometimes make the conversation flow better as you can interact with each other as well, which makes the whole experience less intimidating. Also, don’t be afraid to join a conversation that is already happening. Generally, everyone will make room for you, you’ll have a quick introduction and then the conversation will pick back up again.

DO EXPECT PEOPLE TO TRY AND DOMINATE THE SITUATION: Some people will attend a function with a game plan of all the people they want to talk to – which is totally fine and can be a great idea, but some people will stop at nothing to get the attention they want which can be quite intimidating. Through my experience, there are at least one of these types of people at every event, but it is important not to feel intimidated by them. If you’re mid-conversation with an employer and someone (rudely) interrupts, be polite but hold your ground. The employer is likely to recognize the situation and return their attention to you as soon as they can. In the real world, it is important to be able to work and communicate with people in group situations – so people who are forceful and dominate conversations aren’t always viewed in a great light by the employer.

THERE WILL BE FOOD AND MAYBE DRINKS: There will be food… woo! And drinks… double woo! DO NOT get drunk. I have a hard time talking to my Mum when I’m tipsy, I can’t imagine trying to advocate for a potential job under the influence! I’m not saying you can’t have one or two, but know your limits! Also, eat the food that’s been provided, it’s there for you! Food can also be a great talking point if you’re not sure what to say, but don’t spray it over them! (Hasn’t happened to me, have seen it happen and I’d say it’s a very awkward situation you would most definitely like to avoid).

Most importantly, relax and have fun! The more events you attend, the more confident you will get. Recruiters aren’t trying to trip you up, they really just want to find out about you, and answer any questions you might have. Don’t forget they’re people too and are probably just as excited for the free food and drink!


- Tayla Court, Auckland, New Zealand