A key part of the job search process is your ability to network. Networking is a way to stand out amongst your peers. When talking with colleagues, potential employers, and alumni, be sure you are your best professional self. Talk about your individual skill sets and background. Networking is also a chance to help other people by sharing connections, ideas, and knowledge. Some common conversation topics are travel, sports, books, movies/music, hobbies, career/education and events. Topics to avoid are: money, politics, religion, negative events and personal problems.
1. Have a goal in mind when attending a networking event. You may go with a friend, but split up once you get there have a goal! Some examples of goals are:
- Meet three new people and get their business cards
- Talk to five different people about your career interests
- Find something in common with every person you speak with
2. Sample Questions to Ask/How to Start a Conversation
- Where do you work? What do you do there?
- What did you study in college
- What are your future career goals?
- What advice do you have for someone like me trying to enter your field/industry?
- What do you do for fun in your free time? (ask follow up questions!)
- Did you watch (the Superbowl, the Olympics, etc.)?
- Where are you from originally?
- Have you attended this conference/event before?
3. How to Appropriately Leave a Conversation
- “It was great meeting you and talking with you…
- …I know we’re both here to network so I’ll let you talk to some other people.”
- …I hope to stay in touch– I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn!”
4. Nonverbal Communication and Body Language
- Stand at an appropriate distance from the other person
- Have open body language so that other people can approach you
5. Networking Etiquette
- Bring breath mints – not gum
- If there is food, try not to have your mouth full when speaking with someone – take small bites
- If they are serving alcohol, limit yourself to one drink
- Do not pull out your cell phone while you are talking to someone
6. Follow Up
- Make notes on the back of business cards you collect: what did you talk about? How will you remember them?
- Create a spreadsheet to keep track of everyone’s name, company, date, and what you talked about
- If you made a good connection, follow up with an email and connect with them on LinkedIn
Remember, you can network anywhere! At the grocery store, at a coffee shop or restaurant, at the gym/your fitness class, on public transportation, while waiting in line for something, or in the elevator! Just be yourself!