By: Shanna Jones
The one word you’ll hear every year of your college career and afterwards is “Network”. You’ll always be told and encourages to use your connections to help you find a job, gain an interview, and get noticed. However, some aren’t comfortable as to what to do at these events.
1) BYOBC (Bring Your Own Business Cards)
In the beginning of your career, these are super helpful. Requirements: These must be professional for they are a physical reminder of the impression you made on someone. So, get them professionally done on strong card paper. It is not a huge expense. For $29 dollars you can get 100 business cards to leave with your future employers. Check out what’s available and choose which is right for you.
2) Take notes of the speaker’s talk
Networking events may involve roundtable discussions or lectures. If so, show interest! If you would like to, arrive early and find a seat in the front. Take short form notes of what the speaker says--these make a great reference for when they offer to answer questions (and shows that you were paying attention!) Be careful, though. Do not spend the time with your head down writing notes. Nod your head when you hear something of interest, make the note, then continue showing interest in the rest of the talk.
3) Look ‘em in the eye
Another great tip for those lectures or roundtables? Look ‘em in the eye! Show speakers that you are taking an interest in what they have to say! Throw them a bone sometimes and laugh at their jokes (even if you find them corny). They try their best to be entertaining so show that you’re appreciative of that and for them taking the time to share their expertise with you.
4) Don’t be afraid to make the first move
When the group breaks for lunch or to literally give you all the chance to interact, approach the speakers! Use your notes to reference points of their talk or ask for them to expand on a portion of their talk. Remember, though, don’t treat this opportunity as an investigation. Have a dialogue or conversation with a speaker. Let it flow naturally.
5) Do a background check
Usually, speakers are released ahead of time for a conference or networking event. Look them up! See what is in their work history you can use to spark up or add to a conversation. Trust me, they’ll be impressed that you came prepared to talk to them.
6) Ask them out for coffee
It can’t hurt. If there is a speaker you took a great interest in and would love to interact with in the future in a more private or intimate setting, invite them out for coffee. Whether it’s for a double-double, Starbucks, or specialty brand, conversing over coffee is an act between peers. It removes the stress and expectations that come with networking events, and truly, you’ll probably be more comfortable and able to dazzle prospective employers or contacts.
Tip: After a face to face conversation, add them on LinkedIn!