The ins and outs of networking
January 27, 2020
Networking is the act of interacting with people, exchanging information and developing professional and social contacts. Regardless of the field you’re in, networking is an important skill everyone should utilize. However, how many of you had to put yourselves out there and create connections before you entered college? Probably not too many. Below are a few quick tips that can help you get started with the process of creating a network.
Attend as many events as you can
Yes, even the ones you don’t want to go to. If there is an event you think will add value but you’d rather skip, force yourself to go out and network. Don’t wait until you need something specific from people. It’s always good to build connections.
Whether the event has other students or recruiters present, you never know when you might be able to help someone or if someone might be able to help you in return.
Create meaningful relationships
Your objective is not to come back home with hundreds of business cards from owners you don’t recognize. Your goal should be to walk into an event and walk out with a handful of new contacts, with the opportunity to reach out and learn more about them.
One way to ensure you’re engaging in meaningful conversation for all the people involved is to practice active listening. When someone is talking to you, pay attention and withhold judgement. Additionally, reflect on what they say and ask clarifying questions. Finally, summarize what they said in quick sentences and don’t forget to share things about yourself.
And finally, the most important tip is – remember their name! The best way to avoid forgetting it is to repeat it a few times during the initial conversation.
Stay in touch
Networking at events can be useless if you forget about the conversation or the person as soon as you walk out the door. The point of meeting new people is to hopefully interact with them at a later date. When trying to get in touch with new people or maintaining contact with people you’re already familiar with, LinkedIn can be your best friend. Create an account and ensure it has your picture and at the minimum, your basic information.
This way, you can find your connections on LinkedIn and they can easily recognize you. The best way to break the ice is to reach out with a personal message talking about something you discussed during your initial conversation or letting them know how much you enjoyed getting to know them. It is best if you reach out to someone within 24 hours, but as long as you reach out in under three to four days, you should be okay!
How you come across and being prepared
Finally, one important but often overlooked aspect of networking: the impression you put out to the other person.
Dress to impress and exude confidence while at the same time remain polite and friendly. Depending on the event you will be attending, make sure you’re either carrying business cards or at least some form of contact so people can get in touch with you in the future.
By using these tips, you don’t need to feel scared to jump into the world of networking. It might seem like a daunting task at first, but as with most things, practice makes perfect.
Sonal is a sophomore in Business.