I might only be in my first year, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from people at the various events I’ve attended in the past few months alone it’s this: don’t be shy to sing your own praises and promote yourself. I’ve admittedly neglected this area as I’m actually kinda shy when it comes to this sort of thing – hard to believe, I know…
However, 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
The vast amount of social media sites that people recommend can be overwhelming, but once they’re set up they’re easy to maintain. I recently 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 includes a link to direct folk to my biography. If you’re on Twitter, it’s very easy to create and manage a separate, professional account if you want to keep your personal life away from your professional presence.
However, maintaining so many profiles can get messy so I decided to buy myself a domain and set up a website to showcase everything I’m involved in. I like the idea of having a central point of contact and I can also have a section on my radio experience. Luckily I’m married to a web developer so I can sit back and eat cake while he’s making the magic happen, but for those who aren’t so lucky, trust me when I say putting a website together is easier than you think (EDIT: my husband says that he didn’t work like a dog for his degree in Web Technologies for me to say that web design is easy. I’m now contractually obliged to tell you that web design is up there with rocket science). WordPress itself has a lot of handy tools to help novices build a decent looking site and its modular design means you can cobble something decent together in minutes with a little bit of drag and drop.
2. Business Cards
The first time I was asked for my business 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 am now awaiting my first batch of 50 cards.
In addition to sticking a mugshot on the card to help with the whole names-to-faces thing, I’ve added my course and university details, my new website, email address, Twitter name, phone number and About.me page. I’ve picked up a few business cards from people already and I’m find them very handy, usually when I’m talking to a friend about who I’ve met and I need to remind myself who it was I met!
My first big event was Target Jobs’s IT’s Not Just For The Boys! in London last November. 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 offered a place for the event and thoroughly enjoyed myself, taking advantage of the opportunity to network like mad and make some good contacts. I’m also off to the BCS Women Scotland Kickoff event next week and am looking forward to tomorrow’s Tech Talk, hosted by the university’s Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation (IIDI). I also attended the Connect Networking Lunch last Friday and had a great time mingling with STEM students and staff.
Before you nod off, my intention isn’t to bore you silly with the above, it’s to demonstrate the sheer amount of events and networking opportunities there are out there for female STEM students. There are literally dozens of 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’m only in first year myself, but I’ve never found that to be an issue. 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 as useful as I have and I hope you have as much fun as I do as you schmooze your way around the lectures and events.