Most colleges have career fairs or networking events where knowing how to present yourself could lead to a valuable relationship, internship or even future job. Here are 10 tips to help you become a networking guru in no time.
1. Look for Opportunities
It’s unlikely that you will randomly run into a recruiter on your way to class. The first step is to actively search out career and networking events in your area or on campus. You can do this by looking through upcoming events on your college’s website. (Most schools should have pages made specifically for job or networking resources.) You can also google networking events in your area to find any that fit with your needs/qualifications.
2. Dress to Impress
Even if the event is casual, it doesn’t hurt to put on something nice. Plus, it might make you stand out from the crowd. The dress code really depends on what kind of event you go to, so make sure you figure out what kind of attire is appropriate. Keep in mind that it’s usually better be over dressed than under dressed.
3. Take The First Step
OK, so now you’re at a networking event with a charming outfit. Now it’s up to you to go up and talk to people. Here, initiative and confidence are key! The first step is to start approaching people. Don’t worry too much about what you’re going to say, but rather how you conduct yourself. People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.
4. Make A Killer First Impression
You always hear that first impressions are important, but there’s a reason it’s overused; first impressions set the tone for the rest of the conversation. When you are networking, the conversations you have are going to be pretty short. So how someone feels when they meet you will be a large part of how they remember you. Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, recommends that smiling is the surest (and cheapest) way to leave a great first impression. This is probably one of the easiest tips to implement; it costs nothing and takes minimal effort, so even if you are nervous out of your mind, make sure to flash those pearly whites!
5. Give A Firm Handshake
This may seem silly, but your ability to shake hands can really make an impression on someone. Firm but not too firm is usually best. Check out this study done out the University of Alabama that found that handshakes are a lot more important than we think.
6. The Elevator Pitch
The elevator pitch is a phrase that describes a self-introduction or business pitch that could be given in around the time you spend in an elevator. Since you have limited time to talk to many people, it’s important that you know what to present about yourself. Try to prepare a short bullet list before the event listing your most impressive achievements, your interests, past experiences, etc. Then, just bring up these about these pre-thought-out points when you are in conversation.
7. Practice Active Listening
It’s important to talk about yourself, but it’s also imperative that you actively listen to what the other person is saying. Actively listen to their part of the conversation and look for commonalities or relevant points you could bring up later. If possible, offer your help or expertise if you hear an opportunity. Networking shouldn’t be a one-way street. Finding win-win situations is always ideal, and you can’t do that if you are only talking about yourself.
8. Get a Business Card
When the conversation seems to be coming to a natural end point, asking for a business card is a great way to close things and show that you intend to follow up. When someone hands you one, make sure to look at it for a few seconds instead of putting it right into your pocket or purse.
9. Leave A Good Last Impression
Last impressions are a pretty underrated thing, but it’s the final chance you have to really impress the person you’re talking to. A good last impression usually starts off by knowing when to wrap up the conversation and not dragging it on towards awkward silences. (Yikes.) Thank them for their time and tell them you enjoyed talking to them. If humor is your forte, this would be a good time to crack a witty joke and let the laughter naturally be the end of your conversation. The main point here is to humanize yourself and make sure they remember you.
10. Follow Up
You didn’t get that business card for nothing! Now it’s time to send that artfully crafted thank you email. The biggest tip here is to keep it concise. No one likes to read through long and wordy emails. Plus, it’s critical that you get your point across efficiently and effectively. First, briefly establish who you are and where/when you met them. This can be something like:
“Hi John, it was really great to meet you last Wednesday at the Los Angeles business networking event.”
Then, include a short point from your conversation, such as:
“I really enjoyed hearing about your marketing experience and advertising strategies you are working on.”
If you’re trying to meet up with them, include a short blurb about yourself that is relevant to why they should give you more of their time. Finally, thank them for speaking with you and write that you hope to keep in touch. (But only if you actually plan on keeping in touch.) For more examples, check out this article.
Though networking seems like a complicated and very adult-ish thing to do, it's very doable once you break it down. You never know where your connections will lead, so seek out those opportunities, get some business cards and start expanding your network!
Lead Image Credit: Pexels