Interview: The Human Side of Networking with Jasper Roosdorp
What is networking and what can it mean for us? How do we find a balance between our online network and real-life network? Jasper Roosdorp is working at the Career Services and gives workshops om a variety of career-related aspects. He notices that many questions students and alumni have are related to communication. In this interview, he sheds some light on the art of networking.
What is, according to you, the essence of networking?
You would think that the essence of networking has to do with communication, but I believe it’s self-knowledge. Even before we start thinking about how to communicate, we should be aware of what we can possibly communicate about ourselves. Something that we’ve discovered at the Career Services is that when people have a lot of self-knowledge, and are aware of what their talents, strengths and ambitions are, the communication usually part comes quite natural.
Sometimes a networking conversation may have been scheduled, but networking conversations are far more often unexpected and unplanned chats. The typical elevator pitch, where you just step in an elevator and strike up a conversation about work, is an example of that. You will only have a very short time to pitch what you do, and to clearly communicate about your current or future career, you'll need a lot of self-knowledge.
Question 2: Why do we need networking in real-life when we have LinkedIn and countless job advertisements online? Companies can look up who we are and we can read up and contact them online. Do you think real-life networking is still as useful as it was?
Absolutely! People are social beings, and the setting of the labour market is no exception to that rule. In the end, employers hope to work with people they have personal affinity with and with people they can trust. These are very important values in an employee. At the same time, these things are also hard to extract from a LinkedIn profile. That’s why it is so important to actually meet someone in person. Most studies here at the university help students develop a great deal of valuable soft skills, which cannot easily be expressed through keywords in a LinkedIn profile. We need to speak to people face-to-face before we can truly grasp whether they are communicative, trustworthy, and fun to work with. In a way, I think it’s similar to Facebook. We use Facebook as a tool to keep in touch with people we know offline, but the communication with our connections is something that primarily started and happens offline.
Question 3: Do you think there is a digital concession between offline and online communication? I Sometimes it’s hard to reach people offline, for example when they are abroad or when they are busy important people that are quite unavailable.
I think what digitally comes closest to real-life communication is similar to how you first contacted me through LinkedIn. We both have a network. You already knew a person that knows me and you send me a message referring to him. He is in both our networks so basically he was the person that linked us. If I wouldn’t have known you at all and we wouldn’t have any shared connections, I surely would have been more reluctant in meeting up with you. You pointed out our mutual connection and said that he advised you to contact me, which gave me the feeling that I could trust you and that it would be interesting to meet you. Real life connections are important, even when you are sending a digital message to a stranger. You could contact somebody on LinkedIn that you don’t know but then the chance of actually getting in touch with that person are a lot higher if you have shared connections.
Question 4: Can you give some tips for students on how to network during their studies?
Usually networking is seen as something that you do when you communicate with people that already have a job or even are CEO of an important company. I think networking is much broader than that. Networking also consists of our communication with fellow students and friends. A way to start networking during your studies is by making your direct environment is aware of what sort of career you hope to achieve. You may have a lot of contacts already that could help you start that dream job or career. You might have a neighbour that has a brother who is working for the company that you long to work for. Only by making your neighbor aware of the fact that that is the company you want to work for, he is able to help you out. The tip is to start really basic. Start with your direct environment. There already are a lot of people that surround you that are willing and able to help you out.
Question 5: What is the most important thing about yourself to tell a person you are trying to network with?
If you can only emphasize one thing it should be why you do what you do. It should be your intrinsic motivation. Explain why you are passionate about what you study, why you aim for a certain career. Show your drive. Because that’s what an employer is looking for. When an employer hires you it’s not only because you possess certain knowledge and skills. You're being hired because an employer sees a future in you. That employer sees a person who is passionate about developing skills and gaining more knowledge.
Question 6: How can you best communicate with someone you look up to professionally?
The best way to communicate with someone you look up to professionally, is by understanding that networking is about giving and taking. Networking shouldn't have the superficial goal of showing off how great you are. In that sense, the best way to communicate with somebody you look up to professionally is to show interest in what that person does. Ask questions that you that hold answers that you could learn something from. Doing so results in two important things. Firstly, you may learn something. Secondly, you provide your conversational partner with the opportunity to talk about something he or she is passionate about. People love to speak about what they do. Emphasizing how good you are should not be your focus. Your focus should be on showing interest in what that person does. And that you are willing to learn something. And usually during such conversations, there will be a turning point at which you will be asked questions. ‘Why are you so interested in this? What do you study?’. That's your opportunity to talk about you.
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