If you're a student and struggling to understand, what is really networking and how to do it, this is for you.
When I was a hospitality student like you I was told networking is important in getting jobs and building a career. But I had no idea what that meant!
What do you do when you “network”?
Today I am sharing it all with you. Networking 101 for hospitality students AND the best tips for networking online in the new world of 2020!
If you are a more visual person, watch the video instead :)
What is Networking, really?
Students don’t have a lot of business and hospitality industry resources available specifically designed for them/you, that tell how things work in real life.
All existing information expects you to know a lot of background to be able to understand it. It's not designed for students. I am here to break it down for you.
Let's first define what networking is and is not.
Networking is NOT:
Just for salespeople
Exchanging business cards
Just done at large events
Just connecting with someone on LinkedIn
And it is definitely not
About asking for a job
Asking for advice
Seeking and offering support and guidance
Staying in touch
It is about connecting with people and building relationships with them even if you’ve left the company or moved countries.
So now that we’re clear on what networking is and isn’t, let's get started with doing it.
4 steps to getting started with networking today
Let's be clear on one thing first.
Do you need LinkedIn to network?
Yes, but it's just one platform and one that is very useful and practical today. With events and physical meetings cancelled LinkedIn is essential. It's not the only thing, but a good place to start today.
Get started with LinkedIn today and start networking.
Step 1: Set up your LinkedIn profile
Connect with all your professors, classmates and any colleagues you’ve worked with on LinkedIn.
Join university network groups on LinkedIn and make sure to have your university linked in your profile, so that you can be found on the alumni pages!
Connect with me on LinkedIn while you’re at it too! ;)
Step 2: Curate your feed
You need to make sure your home page shows you content that is relevant and interesting to you.
Follow companies you know, are interested in or would like to work for. Cast a wide net of small and large companies, globally and locally.
Once you go the page of one company and click follow, LinkedIn shows you drop down of similar companies that you may be interested in, check them out as well.
Join groups and follow hashtags as well, this will allow you to see content beyond your direct network and build a larger pool of connections.
Is there is a person that you find interesting that you cannot or don’t dare to connect with? Just click +Follow and their public content and content they engage with will be shown on your feed too.
PROTIP: curate your other social media content too!
Make sure you follow businesses and industry people on Instagram and Facebook too! Not just "influencers" and entertainers. Start by following me @savvyhotelier on Instagram 😉
Step 3: Engage with content and people
Set 30min aside every day to check your LinkedIn feed and engage with it.
What does it mean to engage?
React to other people’s posts by liking and or commenting on them. It’s really that simple.
Comments are the best form of engagement because they showcase your knowledge and curiosity to other people, rather than just likes. You can start great conversations in LinkedIn comments and build connections with new people!
Step 4: Share and connect
Staying connected and building relationships with your LinkedIn connections is about continuity. If you only reach out once a year when you need a job, that’s not networking.
Keep connected with people by sharing information that might be interesting and valuable to them.
For example, you read an article that you found interesting and made you think of that person you worked with - Share it with them along with a message like this:
“Hey, I read this article and think you would find the part about future growth interesting since you were working on that for your business! Hope all is well, Maria”
How to reach out to new people if you are unsure
Don’t have an article to share? Check if the person has been active on their LinkedIn profile or have a blog that they write externally.
Is there anything you ask them about the topic of their expertise?
Asking someone that knows more than you for advice is perfectly fine.
To connect, you could begin by just commenting on their post or responding to their comment elsewhere. You don't have to message them directly.
These are 4 basic steps of starting your networking journey that you can do today.
Set up your profile
Curate your home feed
Engage with content and people
Share and connect
Set aside 30min every day to engage with content on the platform and say hi to one person in your network. Small actions every day will go a long way!
And don’t tell me you don’t have 30min, I know you do! 🤨
But Maria, How do we meet new people to network with nowadays? We cannot go anywhere, there are no events!
How to meet new people online to network with
Remember, events are NOT necessary for networking to take place.
You can connect with new people in lockdown without career fairs, events, or any other traditional means of meeting new people.
> Send connection requests to people you don’t know.
Yes, you can connect with people you don’t know online or haven’t met online on LinkedIn.
The old school LinkedIn mindset would tell you that you shouldn’t do that, but the platform has evolved and is a fantastic way to meet new people!
You can easily click the connect button on the profiles of people that you have a connection in common with. It’s called a 2nd-degree connection. It will show you who is the person that connects you two.
If you are not very confident about connecting with someone specific, follow them instead.
When following someone, you will see the content they post and engage with on your feed. Allowing you to engage with them and their connections.
How to write a LinkedIn connect message
Without having to spend hours customising a message to each person, you can say something like this:
Hi Ed, Sending you a connection request as I am expanding my network of hospitality professionals to learn from and engage with. Take care! Maria
Simple, to the point and gets the message across.
If you saw a person that you found interesting when you were engaging with content on your feed, personalise the message by saying something like this:
Hi Ed, I found your comment on that post about the role of social media in hospitality thought-provoking. I look forward to connecting and learning from you in the future. Best regards, Maria
Here’s an example of the message I received myself the other day:
Don’t overthink it, keep it simple.
Once they accept your connection request, you will get a message notification with the message you sent them.
You are free to start a conversation with them or wait when you have something to share.
Some of these people will respond, some won’t. Either way, you now have more 2nd-degree connections that you can explore and network with!
Connect with people online
It is now more acceptable and welcoming than ever before to connect with new people online. Virtual coffees or even just chat conversations are easy to do, without needing to travel beyond the comfort of your own home!
Begin your networking journey now in my group: be a #savvyhotelier and engage with like-minded students like yourself!
Now you’ve got the basics of networking 101, you’re ready to go out there and build those relationships!
Maria, your Savvy Hotelier