Yes, people do actually have full time jobs. But how? In college, it can feel like a cycle of notes, tests and presentation. There’s no, “How to Secure the Offer 101” unless you take it upon yourself. If you really want an internship or job, you have to N-E-T-W-O-R-K. Networking sounds daunting and intimidating. You’re literally talking to strangers with the hopes they take a liking to you. There’s tons of articles about how to practice and creating your pitch, but what about when you get in the room? How can you stand out? This summer I made networking a priority which is how I’ve gathered these four top tips:
- Relax the agenda. We all know the purpose of networking – jobs, internships, getting ahead in your field. Although I’m on the student end of networking, I am sure it gets tiring to have business cards and resumes shoved in your face. Stand out by starting a genuine conversation. Ask intriguing questions about their education, career path, publications, etc. Then, relate their answers to your goals to ensure a memorable connection.
- Don’t write off the little guy! Talk to everyone in the room, even the guy standing alone by the wall. Everyone has a niche and you never know what it could be until you ask. Any insight is better than none. Furthermore, sometimes the “heavy hitters” are too busy to give you the most valuable insight. The person you didn’t think highly enough to talk to could have been the best mentor or even the next CEO. (P.S. There’s always six degrees of separation 😉 )
- Come prepared. Are you attending a designated networking event? Conducting an informational interview? Did you do your research? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I hope you’ve started preparing. Typically you can find a list of attendees, planning members or base it simply from the industry type. Research the company and people and find out their job duties, accomplishments, educations and more. Preparedness leads to better questions and more insight gained. A prepared networker is a smart networker.
- Perfect your follow-up game. I’ve learned that networking means nothing if you fail to follow-up within a week after the event. People with full time careers work 40hr/wk +, probably have children, bills and a family dog! How can we expect them to remember us after a ten minute conversation on a random Wednesday evening? Send each person you meet a follow-up email and/or thank you note chronicling who you are, when and how you met and a little tidbit about what you talked abut. Show that you were listening and intrigued. If you really liked them, ask to schedule a telephone chat or take them out for coffee to learn more. (And don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn so they can see your resume!)