Why does The Bold Type make networking look easy and manageable? For most of us, networking with professionals feels like plunging into the deep end. The pressure to communicate in a clear, concise, and confident manner is enough for anyone to crawl back to their dorm and just update their LinkedIn to avoid interaction. But if you suffer from network-a-phobia, don’t worry.
This list will have you shaking hands with the CEO in no time.
Step 1: Identify your Goals
If introducing yourself as the Editor-In-Chief of the Smith College Sophian at frat parties gets you hyped, draft a list of what you enjoy about it so you can sell yourself to recruiters later. Are you motivated by the journalism, the leadership or just the constant stress of pestering folks to hand in their articles? Thinking about the future and setting goals will make it easier for you to cast a net into the wide pool of networking. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet the editor who will help you achieve your dreams of becoming a cosmopolitan journalist.
Step 2: Work on your Resume
While ditching movie night for a resume writing bash doesn’t sound like the most exciting Friday night ever, you won’t regret it. Networking with a shabby resume is like going to class without a pen— even if you take notes on a laptop, come prepared. Often, your resume provides the first point of contact with a recruiter and can give you great conversation starters and fallback points to reference during your chat. Let your resume be your professional tool box, not a hinderance that recruiters will toss out with the trash.
Step 3: Make the Career Office Your Second Home
Bring a sleeping bag and pillow each time you visit your campus’s career office because making yourself a frequent flyer there has all kinds of benefits. According to Sheryl Rosenberg, College Career Mentor at Wellesley Career Education, “advisors in our office work closely with students to support them with career exploration and industry expertise, and help them to connect to internship, civic engagement, and fellowship opportunities.” Meeting with career advisors will give you a low-stakes opportunity to practice networking before it really matters. Plus, college career counselors genuinely want to see students succeed, so visiting them develops rapport. They can mentor you in planning, and career-related decision-making so you feel ready when it comes time for that make-or-break interview.
Step 4: Practice Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch resembles the introductory speech you give to a potential partner during a date. ‘Hi my name is […]” and a question or statement that will spark a conversation—usually an interesting fact about yourself. Similar to the “Tell me about yourself” question, approach your elevator pitch in different chunks. “There are three parts to a networking story: your background, your interest in the field, and what you’re hoping to learn from your conversation,” said Jeanine Dames, Director of Career Strategy and Associate Dean of Yale College at Yale University. Speak authenticly, succinctly and clearly, but make sure you throw in plenty of you, too. Your elevator pitch gets the ball rolling, but remember to make yourself memorable. Building a strong professional relationship requires more than just a crisp resume and discussion about your biggest achievements.
Step 5: Set Up An Informational Interview
If the thought of talking to a professional makes you want to hibernate for the winter, informational interviews offer a great middle ground to practice your networking skills and build your networking chops. Before your networking sesh, create a list of detailed questions to ask. As Sandberg said, “Focus on exploring your interests by connecting with others with similar interests.” Informational interviewing can be a great way to develop a list of contacts, and if you’re authentic and genuine you just might earn a gold star—or the position of your dreams.
Step 6: Attend a Career Fair
Career fairs will give you a chance to flex and place those networking skills in practice. To impress employers, you need to prepare and research. Asking questions that you could have answered yourself or with a quick scroll on the organization’s website won’t get you very far. And remember not to downplay yourself. As Kathryn Burdett, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Deutche Bank said, “Be careful not to talk down your achievements out of modesty. At Deutsche Bank, we look for people who can tell us why they’re right for us and why we’re right for them.” Know your strengths and capitalize upon them. Don’t feel afraid to show off your magnificent wings. When it comes to networking, leverage your pride to your advantage.
Step 7: Follow-up With Representatives You Met
Ghosting comes in handy when you want to avoid that awkward person, but it won’t help you out of your student loan debt. Not following-up with an employer, recruiter, or alum, even if your convo didn’t go so great, will definitely send mixed signals. As Burdett said, “Thank you emails to people you’ve met, keeping in touch by sharing a success story or asking a question about a business deal you saw covered in the media are good ways to keep yourself visible and memorable.” By doing that little extra step, you let your new contacts know that you feel seriously about the position. The age-old saying never fails, thank-you’s go a long way.
Step 8: WOO
Walk with your head held high at that career fair, conference, or recruiting event and get ready to “WOO” or “win others over.” “Networking,” as Rosenberg said, “is all about […] creating new connections.” If networking still sounds scary, try reframing it as a professional speed-dating game. You may find instantaneous connections or some distant ones. Just remember to shine like an authentic, professional superstar. “Know what you stand for and communicate your strengths and ambitions in a crisp and conscience way” said Burdett. Employers gravitate to people who come off as confident and clear. so make sure you show off your best self.
10 more ways you can crush the networking game
Written by Fatoumata Sall
1. Make the Best First Impression by Ditching the Sweats
Ever heard of the saying, “you may know the part, but you gotta look the part?” This quote applies tenfold to networking. Stand out to potential employers at a career fair or job interview by coming in prepared with fresh business or semi-professional attire. If you come ready looking sharp as glass, you’ll not only stand out from the rest, but you’ll give off the impression of how important and serious this opportunity is to you.
2. Remember to sound human
Your communication skills can play a huge factor in how well your conversation goes. You might find yourself nervous about speaking to a professional, but remember with a smooth opening it’ll only go uphill from there. Always confidently approach a person with a smile, a firm handshake, and “Hi, my name is XYZ, how are you doing today?” to get the ball rolling. Talk about what brings you joy, infusing your beliefs in there. You don’t want to sound like a resume-reciting robot. Establish a human connection first, because—surprisingly—recruiters are people too.
3. Establish Your Personal Professional Brand
Looking the part and starting with a great conversation is one thing, but how do you back yourself up with evidence? By having an established, clear sense of who you are as a professional to present to recruiters at fairs. Make sure your updated resume and LinkedIn profile match in content, style and tone so you can yourself off as a neatly packaged professional.
If you admire other professionals and want to model your personal brand of off them, don’t be afraid to reach out for tips. Always start with, “I hope this does not come across as creepy, but I was looking at your LinkedIn and I saw that… Can you explain how you went from X to Y?” said Bloomingdale’s HR Administrator Naya Joseph. Not only have you taken the initiative to work on your brand, but you’ll definitely leave a great impression for doing research.
4. Ask a lot of questions
If you really want to stand out, ask other professionals about themselves. Ask them simple questions like, “What does your job and position entail?” Not only will you give them the spotlight to tell you about their interests and goals, but you will also learn about the workplace. This will help you to dictate whether this job fits for you personally. Please remember that networking includes more than just connecting with companies. Professor Lindsay Hogan Ph.D. at Boston College said, “Take into account ‘horizontal networking.’ You do not need to speak to the highest position there is, the people that you go to school with are also your potential networks because most will eventually end up having amazing jobs and bright futures.” Everyone loves talking about themselves—your peers, faculty, family—you just have to ask the right questions.
5. Make Time for Networking
If your future and personal development depend on a task, you can always make time. You may not think about networking as a priority among your homework, extracurriculars and social life, especially beginning your freshman year. However, the “real world” quickly approaches. Take things one step at a time and make some room on your schedule to visit professors, apply for interesting seminars both in or outside of school. What better time to prepare for tomorrow than today?
6. Learn the difference between bragging and selling yourself
Many students with well-polished resumes and LinkedIn accounts struggle with summarizing and translating their accomplishments from paper to their own voice. Touching on your achievements does not make you a bragger. In fact, by speaking about your goals and mission in life, you will add on to your image as a determined individual. Go ahead and share your successes—you’ve earned it.
7. Learn The Art of Authenticity
You do not possess the power to read minds and become the perfect employee your dream employer wants. But you do have the power to be truthful to yourself, your goals and your instincts. Networking is not about leaving an event with thousands of meaningless pamphlets or speaking to as many people at a social gathering as possible. Successful networking just means having a conversation and/or connection with someone. “Networking is a two-way street. Do not force the bond if it is not there,” said Joseph.
8. Confidence is Key
Your palms might sweat thinking about approaching a person that you don’t know. As Amber Meyers, Assistant Director of Career Center at Boston College states, “In five or 10 years, you might be in a position to share an opportunity with these potential mentors, so it can be scary but you will have something to offer to the table.” Wipe off those sweaty palms and confidently stick your hand out for a handshake. By being confident, not only will you show a trait that everyone favors, but you’ll also prove to potential recruiters that you are outgoing and strong-minded.
9. Stay Persistent
Once you’ve connected with the people that really interest you, use persistence to make yourself stand out. Professionals might be getting dozens of emails from other students that have connected with them also. To show your uniqueness, always remain in contact with your connections. There’s a fine line between “being too much” and staying updated. Remember they are busy individuals, so make it easier for them. Make it a habit to send them an email every once in a while, especially if you have completed an amazing task that you want to share with them or saw some new development relevant to their position. This not only furthers the human connection, but it shows how willing you are to get know them. “Networking is like a tree, first you must plant the seeds. Give it time to grow by always watering it and checking up on it,” said Hogan.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
By now you have spoken to dozens of professionals, influencers, professors, potential bosses and more. Effective networking starts with a great conversation, building on to future jobs, friends and associates. To become a pro at networking, you must always put yourself out there by exposing yourself to potential connectors ready to advocate, guide, support and vouch for you. Don’t stop working on yourself.
**Updated on October 19, 2018 by Fatoumata Sall to include 10 more networking tips.