A seasoned networker will know all about the do’s and don’ts of events, but ask a student on the cusp of entering the big bad world of the graduate job market and you’ll most likely be met with a blank stare while their head whirs with the realisation they’ll need to learn, and learn quickly. An increasingly competitive career market calls for a more robust skills base, which extends beyond the top-of-the-league-table degree. University can often feel like a bubble, where students are shielded from the real world with the reassurance of ‘get a good degree, and you’ll make it’. I hate to be the person to tell these students that, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Yes, you can write a 1st class essay on the implementation of green infrastructure in urban design, and your knowledge of rural diversification is very impressive, but how firm is your handshake?
I learnt early on in my university experience that soft-skills matter. The simple ability to look a person in the eye makes the difference in selling yourself as the kind of person they want on their team. However, most students will tell you their course includes little to do with networking and associations; in many cases students learn about networking post-graduation. But surely these are skills we should be developing from the out-set and throughout? Wouldn’t it be good to enter the business arena with the basic skills of interaction? The answer is yes, yes it would. Developing these skills helps us make those all-important connections in the industry, enabling that foot-in-the-door or a step-up-the-ladder. We’ve all heard ‘it’s about who you know’, and that is why I got involved with Women in Planning. If it’s about who-you-know, I decided to get to know people.
As a student, it can be very daunting to enter a room with experienced professionals, however if joining the North-West Committee of Women in Planning has taught me anything, it is that these professionals want to encourage and support those entering the industry, as well as those already established. I have made connections with people from all sectors, offering advice but also interested in listening and learning from others. Women in Planning provides an inclusive environment to meet and develop connections, with women from all stages of life and positions welcome to get involved. It is this inclusive environment which sets Women in Planning apart. We strive to encourage those on the path of career development, supporting their journey through the glass ceiling, and we support those with other priorities in life who want to remain connected to the industry. Supporting women of all career stages has developed a diverse pool of experience, providing opportunities to make lasting connections. As a woman just starting out in a career, experiencing this approachable atmosphere has been very reassuring as it is clear that support extends to women of all stages, positions, and ambitions.
Introducing women to the world of networking at an early stage in their career breaks down the perception of networking as a daunting challenge, and demonstrates that networking is in fact an enjoyable and social affair, providing the opportunity to meet like-minded people. We all know networking enables us to expand our knowledge and develop ideas, but experience in networking also helps us recognise opportunities. An offer of a placement, a request for a product or service, and employment openings may appear as passing comments in conversation, and it is these fleeting opportunities which we must learn to seize to take full advantage of the benefits of networking. Developing a confident and sustained presence in the business community is vital in building connections, and the sooner we start establishing our presence the better.
Women in Planning North West will be holding a launch event and details will be released soon. Please get in touch with us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org
Student of Environment & Planning
University of Liverpool
North West Committee Member of Women in Planning