In college, we’re constantly told “it’s who you know, not what you know.” This can be a scary prospect, especially when you have no idea how to go about making connections and building your network. These 10 tips and tricks are everything you need to know before you head to your next networking event.
Before: How to prepare
Networking is much more than showing up, handing out a few business cards and snagging some free snacks. The best way to make the most out of a networking event is to come in prepared.
- Do your homework!
- To succeed at a networking event, you’ve got to do some research beforehand. Ask the event sponsors for a list of prospective participating companies and organizations, if one is not readily available. Look into companies in your field that you may be interested in working with. Having a little background information on the company and what they do makes all the difference, and will set you apart from other students at the event.
- Be prepared to ask AND answer questions.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask employers and companies that will show your genuine interest in the company. You should also be prepared to answer questions about yourself, including your interests, aspirations, career goals, hobbies and more.
- Practice your elevator pitch.
- Prepare a 30-second elevator pitch that summarizes who you are, what your career interests are and why you would be a good fit for any company.
- Bring business cards.
- Having a business card is a great way to stand out to employers as a college student. You should also bring a pen and a small notebook, or something to write on.
- Dress the part.
- First impressions are key! Make sure to be well-groomed, dress professionally and appropriately.
During: How to navigate
You’re here to expand your network and make connections. Here’s how to make the most of it:
- Make a good impression.
- Dressing the part is only the first step in making a good first impression. Don’t forget what employers are looking for: competence, confidence and a positive attitude. Show genuine interest in the conversations you have, ask questions, make eye contact and smile.
- Exchange business cards.
- Pro-tip: keep your business cards in one pocket of your pants or blazer, and keep the business cards of employers and people you meet in the opposite pocket. That way, they won’t get mixed up and you won’t have to fuss with finding your business card when you need it.
- Pro-tip #2: After meeting someone and exchanging business cards, write something about them and about the conversation you had on the back of their business card. This does two things: 1) This will help you remember them and 2) in a follow-up email after the event, you can mention the conversation you had with them, so they remember you, too.
After: How to establish connections
Let’s be honest, even if you do everything right at a networking event, the employers you met will have forgotten you by the time they get home at the end of the day. Following up with employers after a networking event is essential if you want to continue networking with them.
- Reach out via email.
- Send a personalized follow-up email to any potential employers you met. Let them know that you enjoyed the conversation you had with them.
- Ask for an informational interview
- If it’s a job you want, don’t be afraid to ask for an informational interview in that follow-up email. An informational interview can mean a phone call, meeting over coffee, or even coming into their office to meet.
- Add on LinkedIn
- This way, they will have your resume available at their fingertips.
Now that you know how to best prepare for your next networking event, you can go in with confidence and crush it! Remember that a little preparation goes a long way, and can set you apart from the crowd.