Networking is an excellent way to discover new opportunities, learn new things, and meet new people. Our own networking experts, Undergraduate Public Relations student Daniel Jackson, and Graduate Psychology student Liz Redford give great advice about how to connect with other students, faculty, future employers, or whomever!
When networking, what is a good way to establish connections?
D.J.: Do your homework. If someone has clout, or are well known, research what they have been doing, current publications, and other relevant career information. Make sure to always ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions. It shows that you have taken initiative! Look at their blog, their twitter page. Don’t get too personal, the key is to stay in the professional realm.
L.R.: Identify your goals. What is it that you want out of networking? Also, aways have something to talk about. Pay close attention to what the other person is saying. Staying engaged by maintaining eye contact, periodically nodding your head, and taking notes on what the other person is saying to show that you are interested, and not wasting their time. Read the energy established, and clearly define the appropriate relationship for the situation. When in doubt, always mirror the vibe of the authority member. They set the tone for how you should behave, but remember to always err on the side of being professional.
What is a good way to overcome shyness?
D.J.: It is always beneficial to go to networking events with a friend, especially someone that can utilize whatever networking scenario that you are in. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but you can feed off of each others energy and conversations. You can work out a signal for your friend to come save you if a conversation goes south. Do not drink alcohol to overcome shyness. Do not be THAT guy or THAT girl.
L.R.: Be yourself. It can be nerve racking to go to a professors office hours or to ask a question in class, but it is normal to feel this way. Being transparent, authentic, and open goes a long way. Professors were once students too, and they understand that students are in the process of learning. Address your fears. Reflect on what makes you nervous about them. Are you afraid they will think badly of you? Why do you think that? Reflect on your insecurities. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. Always represent yourself in the strongest, most professional way.
Can you describe some networking faux paus?
- Don’t lie. That is how you get into trouble. Be authentic.
- Bad breath. Do what you need to do to brush your teeth before you come! Even if you have to do it in your car! The last thing you want to be remembered for is your pungent breath! Just take a mint whenever in doubt; it’s better to be safe than sorry. Stay away from gum, because you don’t want to be sitting there chewing like a cow in front of someone important. The breath strips are great too because there is no crunch that is involved with mints. Be discrete.
- Thoroughly do your research so that you can fully understand what the culture will be at the event. Have an idea of what kind of crowd will attend. Make sure you are dressed right for the occasion. You want to stand out for your charisma, not your incompetence or your incorrect outfit.
- The thing about networking, there is no such thing as failure. Unless you get drunk. Then you fail. Limit your drinks. Everything is reflected on you, and the organization you are representing. Do not drink unless the host drinks.
- Be careful making hasty errors. These often occur when you procrastinate, and therefore have to overcompensate with speed. Unfortunately inaccuracy is more likely. Pay extra attention when mass mailing and forwarding messages.
- Listen more than you speak. Your goal should be to listen 80% of the time, and speak only 20%.
- People do not like know-it-alls. If you spend time listeing, you will learn more valuable information. People tend to value effort and passion over ability.
- When you are overconfident, that is often when you mess up, overlook an assignment, or confuse a deadline date. Stay humble, and stay on top of everything.
- Don’t unnecessarily apologize! Apologizing minimizes your actions. Do not apologize for going into a professor’s office hours to ask them a question. If you were sorry, you wouldn’t be doing it! Be confident that you are doing everything you can to get your question answered.
D.J.: If you have committed a networking faux paus, casually end the situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have committed a fashion faux paus and it is too late to change your outfit, weigh out the pros and cons of the situation. Will it cost you more to show up in the wrong outfit, or will it cost more to miss out on the great networking opportunities?
L.R.: Learn from your mistakes, and then move on. The learning process involves some stumbles, sometimes. It only hurts your confidence to dwell on messing up, because the other person may have not even noticed!
What are some tools of networking?
- Use your business cards. Don’t hand them out like candy, but don’t be a hoarder either. Your unused business cards will do you no good sitting at home in a box. Vistaprint has great deals, and you can even print your own with a template.
- Bring a notepad and pen to be ready to write anything down. This means a nice padfolio with a pen at the bare minimum.
- Copies of your most updated resume and/or curriculum vitae. Perhaps even a portfolio of your strongest work.
- Be able to navigate all types of social situations, and learn to read nonverbal behavior. This tool will take you far in networking.
- Confidence. A smile, a firm handshake, and a strong sense of who you are goes a long way. If you do not believe in yourself, how is anyone else supposed to believe in you?
- Listening skills. If you feel like you are speaking too much, you probably are.
- Having characteristics such as adaptability, wit, and charm are invaluable in networking situations. You can’t implement them as easily in every social context, and they need to be developed over time. Careful observations of different networking styles of those you admire are great ways to pick up tricks that they do.
- Googledocs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkdin and other social networking sights.
Hopefully this information has been helpful to you! Post a comment if you have any great networking tips of your own.