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Network to get a construction, engineering or surveying job

Say the word networking to job-seeking graduates and it often conjures up the words ‘nightmare’ and ‘nepotism’, but it doesn’t have to be either. In fact, if you’re looking for a career in construction, engineering or surveying, networking can make all the difference to your chances of success.
You may not think you have a network, but you do. Honest!

When TARGETjobs attended a ‘women in the built environment’ event at Nottingham Trent University recently, the recurring piece of advice to students from professionals working in the industry was to network, network, network. In fact, it seemed that most of the 25 or so professionals had got their first or second job thanks, in part, to their network. And the ones who hadn’t knew someone who had.

One of them, for instance, told how she’d been informed of a vacancy in a company she’d wanted to work for by an ex-colleague she’d met during work experience. Another said that it’d boosted her job chances when her CV had been recommended to the graduate recruitment team by one of the managers who worked there. Still another explained how her company often earmarked the CVs of the students who’d impressed them at careers fairs.

What is networking?

Networking is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. In essence, it isn’t about using someone as a way into a job – it’s about creating an ongoing relationship with people as you go through your career. You might feel that you haven’t much to offer them now, but in time you will have. Remember, too, that people tend to be flattered when their advice is sought and when interest is taken in them as a person.

But what if I don’t have a network?

If you don’t believe you have a network – perhaps you don’t have family in the industry or related work experience – I’m here to tell you that you actually do. Your network can be found through:

  • Your lecturers: many of them were (or still are) working in the industry and many keep in contact with former students. They might be able to give you advice themselves or put you in touch with someone working in the speciality that interests you or at the company you want to work for.
  • The careers adviser/placement officers for your faculty: again, they should be in touch with recruiters throughout the year and may have stayed in contact with former graduates and placement students.
  • Your professional body: if you’ve joined a professional institution as a student (and it’s a really good idea to do so), you’ve got a lot of opportunities to network. Join discussions on LinkedIn and other social networks to connect with industry professionals. If your institution runs a group for students and recent graduates, join it and get involved with their activities. For example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors facilitates the RICS Matrics, a formal group for students and surveyors with fewer than ten years’ experience.
  • Visiting professors and speakers from industry: there is nothing to stop you emailing them afterwards to thank them for their talk and ask them further questions about it.

Of course, if you have done work experience in the industry, keep in contact with your line manager and any colleagues you get on well with. And if you don’t have any relatives or family friends in the industry, it’s still worth chatting to them about your job hopes. You never know whom they might know.

Do’s and don’ts for networking

  • DO join LinkedIn, connect with interesting people in your field and graduate recruiters, and participate in discussions. ‘Students do not always use LinkedIn sufficiently to network and form connections with recruiters and professionals in the industry,’ says Kim Brumley, a resourcing manager at BNP Paribas Real Estate. ‘I link in with potential candidates as it can help recall them to mind when reviewing their applications, as I would have most likely have met them at a careers fair or they may have carried out a placement with us.’
  • DO your research before approaching a professional. ‘Gain an insight into the work they do and who they work for,’ suggests Nuzhat Merali, graduate programme adviser at Bilfinger GVA. ‘Keep abreast of recent developments in the industry. This will allow you to speak to them about relevant topics and ask them specific questions, ensuring that you remain memorable and creditable in their eyes.’
  • DON’T go straight in and ask for a job or work experience. Instead, take an interest in their work and thoughts, and ask their advice on getting a job.
  • DO keep in regular contact: remember, it’s an ongoing relationship so drop them a line periodically to say hello and update them on what you’re doing. Jennifer Davies, a graduate programme adviser at Bilfinger GVA, says, ‘Networking is important in property, so do contact professionals. Convey your professionalism by maintaining the right amount of contact – make yourself known, but not for being a nuisance!’
  • DO read these tips on how to network with recruiters and professionals at careers events.
  • DO get in contact with recruiters at careers fairs. One construction recruiter told TARGETjobs how they were impressed by a candidate at a careers fair and remembered them when they applied. But DON’T just focus on the recruiters – talk to the graduates, too, and get their advice and insights. Recruiters often ask their graduate employees what they think of you and a good recommendation could put you in a good position.
  • This is an obvious tip, but DON'T forget to say thank you! Everyone likes to feel appreciated.