You may have heard this before: It’s not only what you know, it’s who you know… and who knows you.
Networking, in a professional sense, is where you interact with someone you do not know, and learn about each other’s skills, services, and shared interests, which may serve you (or that person) as you continue on your professional journeys.
The ability to successfully network with others is a tool that will serve you throughout your life, no matter what stage you are professionally, or academically. YES, networking is not just for tie-wearing, latte-drinking business CEOs; students (college and high school) must take the initiative to develop their networking skills if they are going to one day become competitive job applicants and valuable members of their chosen industry. Here are some thoughts to help you get started:
This Isn’t Speed Dating!
Networking doesn’t mean going around, shaking everyone’s hands, and quickly saying your name before moving on to the next person. Instead, engage in meaningful conversation with that individual. Ask them questions, learn about what they do, and why they do it. Talk about your interests and abilities. Be authentic.
Networking Isn’t Just for Business Majors
Hey art majors, graphic designers, stage actors and filmmakers: this means you, too! The arts, sciences, health services, trade and technical programs… you need to network with others! The larger your network of contacts, the more informed you will be of any job openings, auditions, trends, and latest industry-specific news.
Put Yourself Out There
Seek out opportunities to network at your school or in your community. Don’t wait for opportunities to arise, make them!
Assemble Your Materials
Business cards are a valuable tool to have, so you can exchange contact information for a later follow-up message. Having your resume up-to-date is also a wise strategy. Seek out further guidance from your school’s career services office.
Hey, I Know of Somebody…
Referrals are a big benefit of networking. When others know who you are (and what your qualifications/skills are), they are more likely to recommend you to, or share your contact info with, a new opportunity. In other words, the reputation you have with your network of contacts will be hard at work helping you succeed, even if you directly are unaware of it. On the flip side, you will be better equipped to refer one of your contacts toward the newest opportunity you just learned about. For those that believe in karma, this is a good thing.
Dress the Part, Act the Part
If you attend an event, such as a meeting, banquet, or interview, make sure to dress appropriately for the occasion. Don’t overdress, don’t underdress, but dress to the event. If you need to wear a tie, make sure you know how to tie it. Invest in an iron, as few things are as off-putting as meeting someone with a horrendously wrinkly shirt. Also, be mindful of your body language. Smile. Make eye contact. Take a deep breath. You will be just fine.