“Networking is key” for tertiary students

News News & events

25 Jun 2018

Business students Grace Samuel and Jazmeet Kaur at the Careers Speed Meet event

Following her graduation from Ara Institute of Canterbury in March, Jess Downs walked into her dream job as a Business Analyst for Datacom, all because she had taken the boss out for coffee.

Well not exactly. ICT graduate Downs first met someone from Datacom at a networking event. Then following on from the initial interaction she approached them for work experience with her final year capstone project and continued communicating with the company throughout her studies.  

“When it came time to do my capstone I emailed them and they had a project which was just sitting there waiting for a student to come and work on it. By the time I was graduating with my Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies from Ara at that time Datacom were actually looking for senior business analysts, but I applied anyway… it just all flowed on from that. My interview was so easy because they already knew who I was; it wasn’t a brand new interaction anymore,” says Downs.

Her top piece of advice for students nearing the end of their study?

“Find mentors, and pick the brains of people who’ve been in the industry a long time. As a student, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and do the work. Go to events from local groups like Canterbury Tech or Women in Tech. Networking is key.”

To facilitate students to connect with companies within the ICT and business sectors, Trish Handley from the Ara Careers Centre organised a Career Speed Meet evening on Wednesday 30 April for fifty final year students to meet with thirty different industry representatives, including MYOB, Datacom and the New Zealand Marketing Association.

Handley says the event was a new initiative to help students to “practise interview skills, get guidance and mentoring and learn about potential opportunities within the industry.”

Accounting student Jazmeet Kaur was glad she went along, “Everyone has been very helpful, and I’ve connected with a few people I’ll contact again afterwards. It’s been a great experience for my first networking event.”

‘Networking’ can be a scary word for students; Handley says she prefers to call it ‘connecting’.

“It’s all about people. It’s not about the number of business cards you get, it’s about the conversations you have, and the opportunities it creates. You never know who you might meet,” Handley says.

Jacob Varghese, Startup Activation Programme Coordinator for Ministry of Awesome thinks these type of events are very valuable for students and graduates who are looking to find their place in the workforce.

“Students should definitely utilise these types of opportunities to start engaging with people. Events like this Careers Speed Meet are useful for me as a member of the industry, but it’s also good for students to have clarity on employer expectations, so that they can bridge any skill gaps they have.”

“Christchurch is a small city, so it’s really easy to engage with people who are high up, and even in executive positions. Through the last months of your study I would really focus on getting out there and engaging with the industry,” Varghese says.