Alex Bill—There are a variety of skills that one is expected to gather whilst studying four years at college, but yet it tends to be the soft skills that most people find so daunting. While you may have the degree, the intelligence and the exhaustive list of extracurricular activities, often times the difference in scoring a job falls down to the fluidity of our conversations! Going out into the “real world” is a concept that is intimidating to most college students, but can be made drastically easier with some basic understanding of networking. Within a swift four years, students turn into adults avid to utilize the skills that they have developed. Finding a career after you graduate is something that is much easier said than done. As young professionals, it is important that we make the connections in our field that will yield internships, jobs and lifelong careers. Here are a few things that will point you in the right direction when you make those crucial first encounters!
Get Your Docs, Doc.
First thing is first, you need to be prepared with the proper paperwork to make sure you stand out from the others. This doesn’t just mean your résumé though. Try to come equipped to a professional meeting with résumé, cover letter, and business cards. While it does seem like a lot of preparation, you will have the tools to make your encounters go smoothly and professionally. Career Services on campus has numerous opportunities to make sure your supportive documents are prim and proper, so take advantage of this free service.
One of the easiest steps to this whole scary process is simply to make sure you are looking nice! Go out and get yourself an outfit or two that you can wear to events that are important. One nice suit can serve multiple different occasions. Trust me, it is definitely worth the investment. Career Services comes in clutch again with this one. They have a free professional clothes closet. Once a semester you can stop in and get a full suit, absolutely free of charge. This includes everything from the shoes to the tie. You just need socks and underwear. And ladies, I didn’t forget you! Get a nice blazer or dress, perhaps a suit works for you too! The professional clothes closet also has you covered. The trick to this is to feel and look comfortable, while giving a stunning business approach.
Okay, so you’ve got your paperwork and your sweet new duds, now it’s time to strut your stuff. Networking events are full of interesting people, but you have to be the most impressionable. You can’t go into a conversation with a prospective employer seeming timid, you want to be under control, smiling, and confident. Even if you are scared, don’t show it. This is the time to fake it until you make it. Take the time to practice an elevator speech before the event. What’s an elevator speech? Simply present yourself in the best light with a concise, 30-second spiel. That’s it. Nothing to it. Just tell them who you are and say it with conviction! First impressions are the most important part of this whole process. Be approachable and true to yourself. Everyone has their own strengths; this is simply a time to make yours seem beneficial to the other party.
What do you want?
The biggest thing about these events is the fact that the professionals are there because they want to work with you. The sole purpose of a networking event is to make connections that eventually lead to an internship, job, or other professional connection. This being said, after introductions and some small talk, jump straight to the point. This saves time and makes you look like you are serious about gaining relevant experience. If you want a job, tell the professional. Just looking to explore? Relay that to the professional. Be honest and sincere, and the connections will be much more useful to you. You would be surprised to see what people will do for you when you show a sincere interest. So don’t be afraid!
Conclusions and Follow Up
So you made your connection, congrats! After making your connection and having some useful conversation, don’t be afraid to move on and talk to others at the event. Simply end your conversation with a cordial thank-you and ensure that you will be reaching out to them. Following up with your connections is like sealing the deal. Make sure that you note down how and where you met them so you can contact them with relevant information on who you are. These professionals will be meeting with a lot of students, so make sure you leave something memorable for them to pick up on later. Other than that, it’s like a dance: simply move in, have some lovely conversation, and move on to another partner.
I hope these tips have helped alleviate some fears and worries about networking events and professional interaction in general. Career Services is a valuable resource on campus that should be utilized as much as possible. Good preparation leads to inevitable success.