Networking is a big part of the aviation world; look at any event in the aviation calendar and you will see that a big part of it will revolve around networking. You’ve heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ This is often the case in business so networking could be just the springboard you need.    

So what’s it all about?

First of all, networking is not just about making social media connections. It can come in many different forms and can be organic, natural or formal. Essentially, it’s about getting to know people and building knowledge in a professional work capacity. Connecting and chatting with people over social media is fine, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to establish relationships and build trust for potential business or job opportunities.

Where to start?

There are many Q&A sessions, conferences and lectures organised during events such as EBACE, the Farnborough International Airshow and the Aviation Festival. Speakers and delegates regularly come together to discuss all things aviation – from how the industry is advancing to the latest technical developments. You name it, there will be an event somewhere in the world discussing that topic.   In terms of employment, most of the bigger events have a full day set aside to help students progress further into the industry, and more often than not, it will be free for students to attend these events. Once you’re there, use the time to make useful contacts and business connections for the future – you never know where it might lead If the event isn’t directly related to a careers theme, you can still make a big impact during your time talking to them. Whilst chatting, perhaps you could see if they needed some free admin during the summer holidays or a guest writer for their blog?

Ask questions

One of the biggest fears of networking is that you will ask a silly question and then have to suffer the embarrassment of their answer before you scarper away. However, if you do your homework beforehand, you’ll be able to see who is there to speak to, and arm yourself with great questions beforehand. Granted, it can be daunting, but a good question will make you stand out.

Help each other out

The great thing about the aviation industry is that most of the people are really nice – and furthermore accommodating on helping new talent enter the industry. Even if someone can’t offer you a job there and then, who’s to say that this person might not be able to offer you support and guidance in another role you undertake? Also, if you’re someone with a fresh pair of eyes, you may even be able to help them by ‘reverse mentoring.’ If you don’t network, and have the conversation, you’ll never know how you could help each other.

Breaking the ice

One of the worst parts about going to talk to a stranger is the fear of the unknown. However, having a pre-prepared soft opener, such as talking about the weather or the latest industry news, are great ways of breaking the ice until you can get to know them a little further.

Break the rules. What rules?

There’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to networking so if you feel more comfortable taking a friend or work colleague, bring them along. It might just give you the confidence to say something you wouldn’t ordinarily have had the courage to alone. It’s completely normal as even the most confident people can find this environment quite intimidating.

Be part of something

By attending networking events, you will often have the chance to be part of a bigger group. Join committees, volunteer on school outreach programmes and help organise events – being part of something bigger might just be the stepping stone you need for success. They will also help develop your planning, communication and teamwork skills, as well as looking great on your CV.  

Raring to go?

Here’s some helpful links to get you started. The Aviation Club UK The British Aviation Group The Aero Society Young Persons Network

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