As a college student, face-to-face networking at a career event can be a daunting experience.
A common misconception is that talking about yourself isn’t a good idea and might even seem phony. Whatever your point of view, knowing the rules is the best way to approach stress-free professional networking at the BEYA STEM Conference.
Last year, USBE’s Student Success column brought you Networking Rules for Professional Life. The 7 rules included a friendly manner and being observant. This year’s “Principles of Networking” reinforce some of those fundamental rules to help you connect with like-minded people.
Give more than you get
Networking is about building relationships. As an emerging professional, you might not have the same clout as someone further along in their career, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer.
Maybe they are looking for a new restaurant to go to, and you are a foodie; or maybe they are looking for a new book, and you just happened to double major in English. If there is a natural connection, offering your talents can also be mutually beneficial.
Before you arrive at your event, do some research on the people or employers. Prepare a list of questions, and a short list of skills, connections, or services you might be able to offer.
Don’t look around the room while you’re having a conversation. Make sure you also keep an eye out for nonverbal cues and allow people to make a graceful exit.
Don’t force conversation
If you and the person you are speaking to run out of professional things to say, don’t keep a conversation going just for the sake of it.
Build meaningful relationships
Networking is about more than business cards. Building a relationship means following up with people you met and keeping in touch a few times throughout the year.
Connect with peers
Don’t overlook your peers as a possible source of a connection. Remember, your reputation can help (or hinder) your career. Always put your best foot forward, and don’t make poor etiquette or boorish behavior a pattern.
Develop a professional online persona. If you already keep your social media professionally relevant, you are set!
For the rest of us, creating a LinkedIn page is a great way to connect with interesting folks, and showcase your professional credentials.