The Importance of Networking
Six times a year, Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Career Services offers workshops Networking. Laura de Reus, who has been working at Career Services since September, tells us more. Register at the exclusive Erasmus University network EUR Connect to get in touch with Erasmus alumni from all over the world, willing to answer questions or provide mentorship.
What is your background?
'I came from the MBO and worked my way up to the HBO, and from there to the University of Leiden. I thought psychology was a very interesting field of research. The ‘disorders’ end of it, however, was not really my thing: I’m far more interested in the intersection of work. I like to work with issues that everyone runs into during their lives, like for example career issues. I’ve worked as a seminar teacher and also as a reintegration coach. But more than anything I wanted to work at the university, to interact students. This position at Erasmus looked like the perfect job for me.”
What does Career Services do?
‘The main goal is to support students. We do this by, for example, providing help in finding an internship or a suitable MA degree. But we also provide help when they’re just starting out with their careers. We aid with practical things such as writing a good cover letter or applying for a job, or even career coaching: helping students to find out what they actually want to do, and what kind of work best fits their skills and personality. Thinking about what you really want in life is important. It gives you confidence.’
Isn’t that a common problem nowadays: what do any of us really want?
‘Yes, for me finding the right place, was a process as well. It’s something that belongs to our times: we think we should get as much out of life as possible. Students believe that their first job should be the very best right off the bat. There’s a lot of pressure riding on it. Because of that, there’s a lot of students who want to get an extra MA degree mainly because they don’t know what they want to do. But you have to get out there eventually. I always say: just make that first step, and the rest will follow.'
‘The topic of networking often gets blown out of proportions, but in reality networking means nothing more than getting information.’
Laura de Reus, Career services
What was the best piece of advice given during the networking workshop?
‘People sometimes think that networking means asking someone for a job. That’s blowing the term way out of proportion. Networking means mainly: getting information. Make it as simple as possible for yourself. You can ask someone you’ve just met a simple, small question, like: what do you do? And how did you get there? Don’t ask too much, people usually enjoy getting to tell you about themselves.’
Does networking also mean going to every single event?
‘Networking has a bad image where everything is about nepotism, and that only extremely sociable people can do by, indeed, attending all the events. That is not true. In the networking workshop I try to make it more accessible than that. You can, for example, approach people via EUR Connect or LinkedIn and ask them small questions. I also give a few tips on how you can best approach someone. But keep in mind, you are asking for someone’s time or information, so try not to ask too much. Don’t expect them to offer you a job right away. A good example of one way to start small is: can you tell me how you got to where you are now?’
Do you need to network over the course of your career?
'I think that getting information in this way can be very valuable. Especially in combination with other methods. It’s certainly not the only way of getting ahead. But just applying for positions online can also get quite monotone. Networking is an important part of the journey you need to take in order to get the job you want.’