Networking: making contacts the right way

As the saying goes: contacts only hurt those who don’t have them. Here you can find out how to create your own network in three steps.


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For quick readers

  • Without contacts and a network, you are limited to publicly available information and tips, both in your studies and in your professional life.
  • In order to increase your chances and opportunities, it makes sense to gradually build up your own network.
  • You can meet like-minded people in existing networks. These are, for example, student, alumni or professional networks.
  • The best way to make contacts is in "real life"; online platforms make it easier to maintain contacts.
  • Because maintaining contacts is still time-consuming, you should limit yourself to the contacts that are important to you.
  • Create a database about your network. This will help you stay on top of things.
  • Networking etiquette is important: contacts are not spammed, harassed or even exploited. The aim is to build up a long-term and honest basis of trust.
  • Networking is not a barter system. Good network partners do not count favors against each other.

A study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found that more than one in four jobs is filled through recommendations. You won’t find these jobs on any job board. So if you don’t have any tipsters, you can always just work with the info that’s publicly available. On the other hand, if you are wired into a network, you know people who promote, encourage and support you.

Networks also make it easier to get in touch with people you can’t reach otherwise – according to the motto: I know someone who knows someone who knows someone..

How to get a network: Step 1 – the basis

The basis of your network is the people you meet – more or less by chance and uncontrolled – on your way through life: Friends, acquaintances, fellow students, lecturers, bosses, neighbors, roommates, party acquaintances, colleagues, clubmates& Co.

Professional networking now means being aware of these relationships and no longer leaving it to chance with whom you exchange ideas. Networking professionals know their network and maintain it systematically.

How to get a network: Step 2 – Choosing a network

The best way to make new contacts is in "real life". Existing networks are best suited for this. There you can keep an eye out for interesting people. The advantage: Like-minded people meet here and contact is the declared goal.

The choice is yours:

  • Professional networks

These also have – sometimes more, sometimes less – student subgroups. In professional networks, you can also meet experienced members who you can ask for advice if necessary: the VDI for engineers and scientists, the European Law Students’ Association (Elsa) for young lawyers, the VDE for electrical engineers or Arbeiterkind for students from non-academic families.

  • Student networks

At careerloft, e-fellows, squeakernet and Staufenbiel, you will meet like-minded students and committed companies.

  • Alumni networks

In the networks of companies, scholarship providers, or the scholarships for gifted students, you are naturally very close to the real world.

Tip: Make an effort in your internships so that you can get into the alumni network afterwards. Many companies already have one, but usually only accept the best candidates and then offer them further training, mentors and career opportunities.

  • Elite networks

In addition to the associations that are open to everyone, there are also the elite networks. Only those who receive an invitation, who can provide special recommendations or who qualify themselves in some other way will be accepted. Well-known elite networks are: Atlantik-Brucke, Elitenetzwerk Bayern and Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes.

  • Voluntary work, parties and associations

Finally, you can also get many relevant contacts and interlocutors through volunteer work, membership in the youth organizations of political parties or associations, for example:

– in political student organizations such as the RCDS, the Campus Greens or the Juso university groups.

– in subject-related initiatives such as the Federal Association of Student Business Consultants (BDSU), Market Team or the BTS for biotech students.

– in interdisciplinary projects like Enactus, Aiesec, AEGEE or Bonding.

  • (Online) business networks

While students are more likely to be wired on Facebook, What’s App or Instagram, Xing and LinkedIn are all about business contacts. These online platforms are excellent for cultivating contacts.

Tip: If you have met an interesting person at a trade fair or congress, then network with him or her via one of the business networks. This way you won’t lose track of each other and you will automatically notice professional changes of your contacts.

How to get a network: Step 3 – be active

Unfortunately, it is not enough to know where you can meet certain people. Networking means: being active! You should know the do’s& Consider the don’ts of networking.

  • Personal contact counts

Networking is about exchanging ideas with people and building a real relationship of trust with them. So: get away from your desk and meet people in the real world!

  • Pay attention to people

With a little practice, even reserved people can make contacts. After all, no one has to ask a complete stranger for a job at an event. But if you are always self-absorbed and with the smartphone in front of your nose, you will not be successful. This can only be achieved by being aware of and interested in the people around you. When you meet interesting people, you should write down their names and exchange e-mail addresses. Taboo are: Wildly cutting up and aggressively pushing business cards on people.

  • Quality over quantity

Networking does not mean making as many contacts as possible, but rather getting to know the people who can help and enrich you. In principle, everyone can be interesting in the first place. It’s people from other walks of life or careers who help you broaden your horizons. Uncool: Approaching people you don’t care about, but whose position or influence you expect to gain you advantages.

  • Take notes

If you want to make your life easier, keep a record of your contacts, for example via Excel file or Outlook. This sounds heartless, but it is practical. You will meet so many exciting people in the course of your studies and professional life that you can’t possibly remember them all like that. Tip: If you want to share personal information such as your birthday, hobbies, favorite cities, etc., you should do so in advance. If you learn something from an acquaintance, keep it in your "database". This way you can congratulate him or her in good time or have an immediate point of contact for the next meeting.

  • Give and take

Everyone should benefit from networking. If you only ever show up as an information leech, you won’t get far in the long run. The others will eventually feel taken advantage of. So: also share information yourself and provide contacts.

  • No bartering

Networking is about mutual added value, but it’s not a matter of "I’ve helped you out, now it’s your turn". Not every favor has to be immediately followed by a return favor. Networking is a slow and long-term process of building human relationships – not a business.

  • Too much is unhealthy

If you become a (digital) babbler and spam your contacts with ten posts a day or only talk about yourself at a meeting, you quickly become persona non grata. Networking also means: not imposing on others.

  • Evaluate contacts according to usefulness

Maintaining acquaintances is a time-consuming affair. You cannot possibly stay in intensive conversation with everyone who has crossed your path once. It is therefore not indecent to evaluate your contacts according to their importance. When networking, limit yourself to the areas that are important to you.

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