Networking events are very important, but they can also be extremely intimidating. According to a survey from LinkedIn, about 85% of jobs are filled via networking. Plus, a huge percentage of jobs are never actually posted but instead filled through preexisting relationships.
Carly Elssmann, a senior managerial and organizational communication major with a minor in business administration, says, “It is a unique opportunity for you to ‘dip your toe’ into careers without taking an internship or job within the field.”
Okay, you know that networking is important, but now what?
- Find An Event: Join professional societies within your desired industries and keep an eye on the events they plan. Plus, there are tons of LinkedIn groups that host local, industry-specific events.
- Don’t Be Scared by The Price: Networking events can be pricey to attend, but don’t give up if an event is out of your budget. Try emailing the host and ask if there is a college student discount, or if you can volunteer your time in exchange for a break.
- Dress Up: Devin King Jones, a PLNU OSV career coach, stresses the importance of this. “It’s better to be overdressed in that situation, especially as a college student.” Professional attire is always the safest bet.
- Plan Ahead: Charis Wanken, another PLNU OSV career coach, says to
“Think about it ahead of time. Think about who’s going to be there, what types of questions you’re going to ask.” Jones suggests preparing a short, 30-second “elevator pitch” to act as an introduction when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.”
- Run on Momentum: Once you’re there, Jones says her favorite tip is to “talk to the first person you see, no matter who they are, because the sooner you get a conversation started, the sooner you’re going to break the ice and break your nerves.”
- Be Curious: Despite what you may think, you’re not at this networking event to get a job. Instead, focus on making genuine connections that will benefit both parties. Wanken says to just be curious: “There’s so many things that you can learn from them…don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you blow it, you have another person you can talk to, and you can try again.” [sic]
- Act the Part: Shake hands, make eye contact, ask thoughtful questions and have business cards to give out if asked. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else for their card as well!
- Follow Up: One of the most important elements of attending a networking event occurs after you’ve hung up your suit and tie. Follow up promptly through LinkedIn or email to stay connected.
Elssmann says to not forget one important fact: networking goes beyond just events. “There is so much stigma around networking. The simple truth of it is that we have all networked since the day we were born.” If networking events aren’t a good fit, she suggests trying out informational interviews or meeting someone for coffee to ask about their industry. No matter how you choose to network, Elssmann says to, “Be assertive, authentic and humble.”