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A Beginner’s Guide to Networking

Having to go up to a stranger and start a conversation can be hard and when that stranger is the CEO of a successful company, it becomes very intimidating! It can be difficult to talk about your best qualities to an unfamiliar person, especially when they seem insignificant compared to theirs. The awkwardness, uncomfortable pauses and thinking about what to say next are fears that we all have when meeting new people.

I am here to tell you that you no longer need to have these worries and with some practice, you’ll be making new connections in no time. Where do I start? The opportunity to attend networking events on and around campus is everywhere. Some examples of these opportunities are at career fairs, college expos, alumni events, featured speakers, and even at tailgating events! I like to think of networking as building a relationship. Having relationships with the right people can not only provide the right connections, but the opportunities for mentors and career advice. Building on this relationship helps the both of you to learn more about each other and can lead to that awesome internship or even a job offer after graduation! So here are some tips on where to start:

1. Be Confident
It is very important that when you talk to someone that you show confidence through your body language and speech. Look the other person in the eye, stand up straight, and speak in a strong clear voice. This confident attitude can make a great impression on whomever you are speaking with. By showing them that you are capable and eager they may become just as impressed with you as you are by them.

2. Tell me about yourself
After introducing yourself, ask the person about their interests, experiences, or for advice. People love to talk about themselves and share what they are interested in or working on with others, after all who knows them better but themselves. Everyone has something that they are passionate about, find out what that is and show an interest in learning more about the subject.

3. Use social networking appropriately
We are in the midst of the digital age, where almost everything and anything is available online and to the public. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin need to be used appropriately when considering possible job opportunities or just the amount of people your profile is available to. I like to make my Twitter account and Linkedin profile public for others to find in order to build my personal brand and create new connections but keep my Facebook private in an effort to control my private life. It’s very important for any young professional to know when to share and when not to share.

4. Think outside your inner circle
Make a list of all the people you know through student organizations, professors, advisors, mentors, family members, and even other students. Counting your next-door neighbor or a colleague of your parents in your network and creating a relationship with them can open doors too. There are so many people that you already know you probably haven’t even considered as being part of your circle. Ask them to get coffee and talk with you next time you visit home or have a question about what their career. You may be surprised by what you find out.

5. Say thank you and stay connected
After you have spoke or met with someone, ask for their contact information so that you can reach them in the event that you have a question or need help. If I receive a business card after an event I will contact that person within 24 hours as a follow up saying thank you for speaking with me and I’d like to talk with you more about this topic or do you have any advice on this topic. They will appreciate you reaching out to them, especially in a timely manner.

Networking can seem overwhelming and intimidating at times, but if you start by talking to a recent graduates or your favorite professor it can be good practice. Make it a point to step outside of your comfort zone and expand your network through other sources. Practice makes perfect and after all you might be surprised with who you soon become connected with.

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