There you are: a newly graduated college student trying to get your feet wet in the professional world. Maybe your first job coming out of college isn’t working out, or you just want to meet others in your field. So you decide to go to one of those networking events you’ve heard about.
The problem is, you don’t know what to do there! You’ve looked online to get some hints, but they all seem to target business leaders, not 20-somethings. Well, you are in luck! I have looked through these lists and picked out the best advice, the ones I feel will work best.
First off, be yourself. This one is the first in most lists, which shows how important it is. No one wants to do business with mannequins. The reason someone will want you in their network is your distinct personality. A network is really a net of professional connections, so don’t be that fake person that everyone sees through.
The second tip is to be friendly. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, a networking event is not just giving an ‘elevator pitch’ and business card to everyone, then walking away. It is a time for adults to come and make new relationships, to connect. You should ask good questions, give great (and short) answers, and make an effort to learn about the person.
Third, networking should always be quality over quantity. Pick just a few people throughout the event to talk with and connect. They can be prominent people in your industry, personal role models, or even just the first people that you see. The important thing is to not stretch yourself too thin, trying to talk with everyone.
The final tip, which I think is the most important, is to follow up with those you spoke with–takes you from “that person at the event” to “[Insert Name Here]” in the person’s mind. By reaching out to them afterwards, you show that you are interested in them. Ideally, you would have learned something about them at the event which you can now utilize to strengthen your connection.
The thing to remember, however you want to approach these events, is that it is what you make it. Being a wallflower is comfortable, but that isn’t networking. So smile, be yourself, and make some quality connections.
Brandon Swanson is an intern in the Office of Career Services. He is a Communication major graduating in 2018.