Networking Doesn't Have to Be a Nightmare
Ah, networking. It can be awkward and boring, but also fun and exciting. However, the main reason people may not enjoy it is because they don’t know the most effective ways to do so. Many people I have talked to fear the awkward encounters, not knowing what to say or how to ask the right questions. After going to professional events, panels and networking events I have compiled notes on the best tips for networking and establishing your brand. Keep reading to find out tips to prime your professionalism and knock your networking skills out of the park!
Be open. People are at events to network and meet people. They want to talk to you, so just walk up to people with a handshake and smile and don’t be afraid to start a conversation!
Ask questions. If someone is in your field of interest, ask them questions about their experiences. This is your time to pick their brain and gain insight about a possible path that you want to pursue. It can also be helpful to prepare questions ahead of time for any event (career fair, networking event, panels, etc).
Send a follow-up. If you have a good conversation with someone it could be helpful to send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and insight. Another good tool for following up is LinkedIn. When you send an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn, you can also send a message which would be a great way to follow up!
Don’t oversell. Confidence is good, but be sure to stay humble. Overselling yourself can come off strong to another person. There is a balance, so practice before so you find the balance between underselling and overselling. First impressions are very important - it is the first perspective someone gets from you!
Have a resume or contact information ready. If you want to keep in contact with someone you networked with or they present an opportunity to you, have information ready.
Prepare an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short and sweet explanation of yourself. This is helpful to prepare beforehand, so you can memorize it. However, if you do memorize it, make sure to not sound scripted and don’t forget the handshake!
So, say you get an interview from a networking interaction...
The STAR Method
This is one of the niftiest tricks I have learned in college that has helped me in so many interviews. It is used for when an interviewer asks you a behavioral question about something you have done in your experience as a young professional. You state the situation, the tasks that needed to be completed, the actions you took, and the result of the situation. Having a few scenarios in mind before an interview or interaction can be very helpful and make you look more prepared. Being prepared will help you ease the nerves in any networking situation or interview. Check out the example below!
Situation: “As the public relations specialist of this campaign with XYZ client, we were presented with coming up with a social media campaign in order to increase awareness of their brand.”
Tasks: “ The tasks that needed to be completed were coming up with a content strategy, a timeline, and demographic research.”
Action: “ The actions I took to help increase awareness included storyboarding ideas and collaborating with my team to conduct research on the demographic. By conducting research, I was able to generate content ideas.”
Result: “As a result, the presentation to the client was well delivered and they implemented our ideas for their campaign.”
The Balance has an article that also gives a list of the most common behavioral questions and good tips on how to answer these questions in an interview. I found it really helpful to see a list of possible questions because it challenged me to think about how I would answer them.