Networking is one of those skills that is very hard to define, and when you are using these skills, you may not even know it. That's what happened with me. Without planning anything, somehow I managed to use my networking skills to get jobs both within the university and to gain full time employment before graduating.
It wasn't until my third year that I felt comfortable enough at University to take advantage of the facilities available to all students. I have been a huge fan of American Football for many years but always assumed it was a sport that I would watch and never play. I had never been exposed to the sport outwith TV and had wondered if there was a role for a small guy like myself in such a physical sport. I realised that the best chance I had of ever playing the sport was to see if I could play (or at least train) with the University team, the Strathclyde Hawks. I contacted the appropriate people and went along to try out.
Having never played the sport at any level, I was a true rookie, making mistakes all over the place, tackling guys on my own team and generally messing up a lot - but I had a cracking time. In this situation, without realising it, I was forming useful contacts who would help me achieve things I had never dreamt of. In the summer, one of the guys from the team suggested we try out for the Scottish Claymores under 20's team who were going to be playing a game against Team England. Suddenly, from having never played the game, I was going to be training with the best youth players in the country, and getting trained by the national team. Scottish stars were coaching us and we trained like a pro team with weekend camps and two a day practices.
The experience was great, and I had got to meet some great players. Again, I had made some useful contacts. At the start of the next NFL Europe season in April, one guy who I had met through the sport, offered me a job working for the Claymores on game day. I would be sitting up with the cameramen and commentary team and helping provide stats from the game for the live TV coverage. This job, which I would not have been offered had I not subconsciously used networking skills, is every fan's dream and I feel very fortunate to hold it. Imagine getting paid to watch your favourite team play and then as a bonus, get to sit in on the press conference!
I graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in Computer Science, which is a degree that traditionally holds good career prospects. However, it's hard to find that 'right' job, especially if you want to work in Glasgow and are not willing to leave the city, which I wasn't.
Again, networking proved useful as a job was advertised for a programmer to work for a company in Clydebank. I was informed of this job by a friend who worked at the company. The friend was someone who I had met through working for the Claymores. Of course, I like to think I was hired on merit alone but I'm sure that having networked with someone credible within the organisation who was able to speak well of me didn't hurt my chances.
Now, I'm currently employed for this company, loving the environment, having my friend as my boss. It is as good a job as I could have possibly hoped for. I feel comfortable in the job and I settled in much, much quicker than I would have had I not known one of the people I was working with.
Working life is a bit of a culture shock from Uni. I can't sleep in till 11 any more and skipping a day because I'm tired is no longer an option. But I like it. There is tonnes of variety, money in my pocket and the nights are my own.
I owe (almost) all of it to networking.
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