Networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.
Sounds pretty basic when you read the definition, but there are several reasons why this concept can be tough to tackle in reality. Depending on personality type whether introvert, extrovert, or the socially awkward, attempting to “get your network on” may not be as easy as the definition makes it seem.
After attending Networking in Neyland at UT, hosted by the Center for Career Development, it provided me with a lot of insight on this topic. The workshop before the main event provided some awesome tips on how to network yourself (for all the newbies). If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, branding yourself is so important. At the end of the day, why should they choose YOU over everyone else? It’s all about who you know. Networking is key to branding yourself in the industry.
Here are some of my hacks for better networking…
Stay Positive, You Got This
It is so easy to get discouraged.. but don’t. I am mainly speaking to all you introverts out there. Yes, you may be shy. Yes, you may not be confident. But you got this. Instead of thinking of what could go wrong, think of your elevator pitch in advance. What is an elevator pitch you may ask? Great question! An elevator pitch is basically 1-3 sentences or a very brief description of who you are and what you’re about. Even if I forget some of my topics for discussion, this way I already have a way to start the conversation. First impression is key, which leads to my next tip…
Your handshake is kinda a big deal. Be firm with your handshake (not like a floppy fish) and maybe even provide a compliment, but don’t get creepy with it..
Lead into talking about yourself casually. Trust me, you will be asked eventually. Use your introduction as an opportunity to establish a common ground. Ask questions like where did you graduate, or are you originally from here? The purpose of introductions are to get to know each other, not blab on and on about yourself.. remember it’s a two way convo.
Represent your resume in person, Not on paper
DO NOT throw your resume at whomever you are talking to. This is important. Please feel free to re-read the previous two sentences (until it clicks). Talking to a business professional is not an interview. This is not to say networking will not lead to an interview (in most cases it does); however, the person you may be speaking with is most likely not equipped to conduct an on the spot interview. So that it why my next tip comes in handy…
Ask for a Business Card
A business card is a great conversation closer to help avoid that “awkward moment.” Let’s face it, awkward moments happen all the time. Think back to that long awkward pause when engaged in a convo.. whether on a first date (oddly looking away for a moment) or having a conversation with someone you haven’t seen since the age of 2 (but they remember changing your stinky diaper) .. we’ve all had them. Asking for a business card does two things. One, you now have contact info. You definitely want to get back in touch with who you are speaking to. Two, you look and sound professional. Who doesn’t like sounding professional?
These are some tips of how I make the most of my networking experiences. Hope these networking tips prove to be helpful to you as well. If you try one of these so-called “hacks for networking” or have any of your own, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up in the comments below!