It was one of those days in which everything was going wrong. I got on the subway frazzled and frustrated, and I was afraid it would affect my interactions at the networking event I was headed to. I was feeling slightly better once I arrived at the event, and I took a seat in the front row, my pen and notebook ready. I looked around to see that most of the other students at the event looked just as unsure as I did. I could feel the pressure everyone was putting on themselves. So how can we all feel more prepared for networking?
Before the event: Create a LinkedIn profile. It’s a professional social media site that allows you to connect to people in your desired industry and alumni from your school that may have connections that would interest you. Having a career summary, a professional picture, and your work experience all in one place will show that you know how to market yourself and are keeping up with professional trends. Depending on the type of event, I recommend bringing a notebook and a pen, and a few copies of your resume (or business cards if you’re fancy). You don’t have to wear a pantsuit, but dressing up a little bit will help give off the impression that you are ready for a professional environment. Research the panelists, the company hosting the event, and any names that stand out on the RSVP list. Practice your “elevator pitch,” a 30-60 second introduction of you, your skills, and your goals –almost like a conversational LinkedIn. This may sound like an exhaustive preface to the actual event, but it will help you both mentally and socially so you feel more confident. Confidence can get you far. Like all things in life, the buddy system makes everything better. Bring a friend or classmate who’s interested in the same industry as you!
During the event: This is going to sound like vague advice, but be engaged. Take notes. Ask questions. Listen. Reach out to the other people there, even if you feel like they’re “out of your league”. Don’t outright ask for a job, but specific professional questions/compliments are great. Here are some examples of what to ask and ways to make conversation:
“How did you hear about this event?”
“Where do you go to learn about networking events or general updates in the industry?”
“I really liked your work on the dog wedding video!” (change this one depending on whose work you’re talking about!)
These may not seem like much, but it will get the ball rolling. Remember that networking is a two-way street, so not only do you want to “market” yourself, but the employers should be doing that as well. If you have an uncomfortable interaction with someone, it’s not the end of the world. Networking will take practice, so keep at it even while it’s still out of your comfort zone. Approaching someone younger in the industry is also a way to ease anxiety because they were in your position not too long ago!
After the event: Follow every name you remember on social media. LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter are your best bet, but keeping updated and interacting with people in the industry (who you may have met in person) will give you an advantage. Remember that your classmates and teachers are also good networking tools – consider collaborating or being a mentee. The career services department can also help match you up with alumni or faculty that could help further your career. The career center can also provide help with resumes, cover letters and more!
I was concerned about this article being biased because it might not work for people outside of my major, so I talked to a variety of students and their tips for networking. Here are their best tips!
“Ask for emails everywhere and send a follow-up. And don’t be afraid to be bold!” – Caitlin Berg, Campaign and Digital Intern at Feminist Majority Foundation
“Utilize social media to the fullest, there are things like “MEETUP” where you can meet up with a club of people with similar interests.” – Jamila Wheeler, Preschool Teacher and Concert Promoter
“Never turn down an opportunity but also don’t feel bad if you need to take a break!” Adele Sakey, Photographer
Hope this helps, happy networking everyone!