Networking, Recruiting & Landing your Dream Internship

Networking, one of the most overused buzzwords of our generation.

It’s pounded into our heads from our first business class in high school that your “network is your net-worth,” and that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

With so much emphasis on the value of networking, it amazes me that some people still don’t know how to work a room in a networking event, or create relationships with value.

In this article I explore some of the common misconceptions with networking, some important tips on how to talk to anyone, and how to close the deal and make a valuable connection after the event.

Top networking misconceptions.

Too often, the purpose of networking is obstructed by meaningless and arbitrary ‘goals’ students impose on themselves. An example is this: My first networking event I made it a challenge to collect as many business cards as I possibly could and add connections on LinkedIn after the event. To me, more connections indicated a more successful networking event.

However, this misunderstanding of the purpose of a networking event made it ultimately unsuccessful. I grew my ‘network’, but I didn’t make any real connections. Networking isn’t about knowing more people, it’s about knowing people more. If you can connect on common interests, hold a genuine conversation, and build a relationship with one person, you have had a more successful networking event than collecting 10 business cards.

Another misconception I hear a lot is that networking is only about getting a job. Commonly recruiters have large crowds around them, and other professionals can be neglected at networking events. It is important to remember that these events are about making connections with individuals, not just asking recruiters for opportunities.

Be a better conversationalist.

Be careful on your choice of conversation starter.

A general formula I like to use is ask a question that:

  1. Shows your knowledge of their company
  2. Shows your knowledge of the industry
  3. Allows the networker to seriously think about what you asked, and give a meaningful answer.

For example, if you are talking to DECA’s NAB partner Vanguard, instead of asking what a day in the life at Vanguard looks like, you can say something like, “I recently read of the impact of ‘passive investing’ and ‘robo-advisors’ on asset management firms like Vanguard. Has this influx of interest in ETF’s affected daily work?”

This shows knowledge of the company and industry, and allows the networker to think about their answer, increasing the chances that they’ll remember you.

Additionally, keep an eye on your watch. Do not monopolize the networkers time, try to engage others in the conversation, and when you feel you have made a relationship with the networker ask for their card and leave the circle. The main goal is to show your social skills and knowledge of the firm, build a relationship with the networker and leave after a reasonable time.

The ‘must-do’s’ of networking.

For this section, I’m going to list some quick tips:

  1. If there are beverages at your networking event, hold your drink in your left hand. This way, you keep condensation off of your right hand for when you shake.
  2. Have your name-tag on your right hand side; creating a line of sight when you shake hands from your arm to the nametag.
  3. When in a circle, focus your gaze on the speaker, or another individual who is talking. Wandering eyes make others believe you are uninterested.
  4. Eye contact when shaking hands is a must, it shows confidence and poise.

Remember to follow up.

If you received contact information, the most important step is following up. When sending an email, or a LinkedIn message, ensure it is timely (within the next day, morning is better than night), well written with no spelling errors, and references a conversation you had with the networker.

Try not to make this email too long, this is your chance to remain top of mind, solidify your positive impression, and follow up with a request (coffee conversation, direction to an application etc.).

With these tips I hope you’re able to improve how you work a room at a networking event. Build connections, stay in touch with who you meet, and always remember to smile!

Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeJardineDECA.

Categories: Business, Career Advice, College & Career Advice, Industry Trends, Job Advice, Tips For Finding A Job