As with most professions, a very important part of growth and development is knowing exactly how to connect and build relationships with other people. Networking is an underrated part of the food science profession, but it is actually one of the best ways to help your career. You get to meet with industry professionals who you can not only learn from, but also leverage when making new connections in the industry. It’s also great to network with smaller players/new entrants into the industry as there might be quite a lot of untapped potential and ideas that are just looking for the right people.

If you undertake effective research, you will find that there are a lot of events where food science professionals can meet and learn from each other. However before diving in, it’s important to have some background knowledge of the industry and obviously the best way to achieve this is through a well-known and effective course, such as a diploma in food science and technology. A degree offers a vast amount of knowledge and can be highly beneficial when trying to strike up a conversation at a food science event. Here are a few other tips to networking with other professionals.

Be Punctual

Even though the majority of individuals know the obvious notion that being punctual is looked upon favourably by others, many of us don’t do nearly enough to consistently maintain punctuality. If you’re looking to attend a networking event, do everything within your power to get there early. This not only gives you the opportunity to get an understanding of the layout and how the event will run, but it will also provide the chance to meet and introduce yourself to a few people before the event officially kicks off.

Be Inquisitive

The possibility of growth in the sector is one of the benefits of studying food science and technology. As a student of the field, you have quite a bit of knowledge on the subject, which as mentioned previously, can be utilised to your advantage at networking events. But while this knowledge is highly valuable it can sometimes feel like you are bothering people with conversation, especially when talking to large players in the industry. Therefore while asking questions is important, make sure you have some planned beforehand to avoid awkward silences or unimportant questions. Through carefully choosing questions that you would like answers to as well as interesting topics for the event, you can maintain people’s interests in the conversation without feeling like you are boring them. However, most importantly when networking make sure to listen and respond appropriately to conversation. People come to the events to meet people, not be interviewed.

Create a Plan

As briefly touched upon creating a plan for networking is vital. Whether or not you’re at an event, try to figure out what exactly you want from networking. Think about how many people you hope to reach out to and what kind of people they should be. This lets you plan your time effectively between talking to major and minor players in the food science industry. You don’t want to end up just talking to any and everybody available and realising later that you achieved little or nothing. Create a realistic networking plan in terms of time and being able to meet everyone on your list. One effective way of doing this is to do some research about the people you’re going to be reaching out to. It will also help you to strike up conversation with them and develop topics to chat about rather than going in completely blind.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Be sure to reach out to the people you have connected with, not long after you make the connection. Connect with them through whatever means you are provided with (email is usually the best method) and make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn to build up your professional network. When contacting them through email or phone make sure to highlight how they would remember you (from the networking event) and anything else you would be interested in discussing further (graduate opportunities with their company, career advice etc.). With this being said you also will have to prepare yourself that they may not respond or may be unable to catch up with you, however, simply having them as a connection can still be invaluable.

Building your connections even when you’re still trying to acquire a diploma isn’t a difficult task. All you have to do is follow these steps and you’d be surprised at how many quality connections you will be able to acquire, setting yourself up nicely for your future career in the food science and technology industry.