Making the right contacts

Sixth-formers at Derby High School have been given the chance to hone their networking skills with the aid of local businesses

Networking was on the timetable for Derby High School students who hosted a VIP event with members of the local business community. Girls from the upper sixth organised the event which was held at the school in Hillsway, Littleover.

Representatives from a range of organisations attended, including Derby City Council, HMRC, Cooper Parry, Sherwin Insurance Services, Smith Partnership Solicitors, Marketing Derby, HMRC, Silver Birch Creative and Pick Everard architects.

Claire Twells, from solicitors Smith Partnership, ran practice sessions with the girls before the event during which she gave them tips about how to network. Student Tanya Fahmy, 17, said the skills she learnt from the event would help her in the future: “We did some practice networking sessions with Claire beforehand and we talked about how to start, end and join a conversation and how to move on. We also talked about how to give business cards out and we all had our own business cards on the night. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and it was great to have Claire talk to us about how to network in a professional way.”

Student Sarah Hawksworth, 18, added: “Claire talked to us about the dos and don’ts of networking, how to dress, how to act, conversation starters, joiners and enders. We did some role play too. The first person I spoke to at the event was really nice and was good at making conversation. I talked to someone else for a long time too and it was good to see how they acted and I learnt a lot from just listening to them. I was nervous about networking beforehand, but it’s actually been good and made me feel more confident.”

Mike Williams, of Sherwin Insurance Services, said he thought knowing how to network was a vital skill: “Learning how to network at this age is crucial and it will be helpful whether the students are going on to job interviews, apprenticeships or university interviews. They will go away knowing that they can hold conversations with people they don’t know.”

Alec Lee, head of sixth form at Derby High School, said: “It improves the students’ confidence and self-esteem and they learn how to interact with professional people whom they’ve never met before and are able to hold a conversation with them. It’s a fantastic testament to how well the school prepares them for the next stage in their lives.”

The networking event is run annually as part of the school’s ‘truly educated’ course, during which upper-sixth girls learn real-life skills including how to build a brick wall, mend a puncture, perform basic checks on a car and build and assemble flat-pack furniture.

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