“You’re invited: networking event with Fancy Shmansy Company!”
Great. Do I have to go? What am I supposed to say or do at these events? …ugh. I’d rather just stay home and avoid the awkwardness.
These were the thoughts that would run through my head every time I heard about a recruiting/networking event in college. I dreaded these events but soon came to realize they were extremely important. If you have any interest in the company or industry hosting the event, you need to go.
Because it shows that you care enough to set aside some time in your day to do some research, dress up, and spend an hour or two learning about an employer. The competition is really tough out there and you need to distinguish yourself.
Connections get you jobs. And networking is a great way to make connections! Employers get tons of applications and are reluctant to interview people they’ve never met or heard about before. Try to make your name known.
Networking events will always be a little awkward…but here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Research the company/organization:
- What’s its core mission?
- Are there any branches/focus areas that really catch your eye?
- What does the culture look like?
- What are their current job/internship openings?
- Think about your experiences and how they may align with what you think the company is looking for
- Do you know anyone who works there?
- Prepare your spiel: What are you studying? What are you passionate about? What brought you to this networking event? After shaking hands with a recruiter, you’ll likely need to give a brief description of yourself, so it’s good to have prepared a short, eloquent answer.
- Dress sharp: attire may differ based on the company, but business casual or nicer is typically a good rule. Don’t show up in workout clothes or leggings and a tee.
- Print several copies of your resume: you may be able to give it to someone at the event. If they liked talking to you, they can put it on the top of the recruiter’s pile of resumes.
- Bring a notebook: you’ll want to jot down people’s names and maybe even a little about what you talked to them about
- This is great info for follow-ups: be it to ask more questions or just to let them know you are applying to a certain role. They might be able to put in a good word for you or connect you to someone who can.
- Ask for business cards: save yourself the guesswork. Business cards typically have a person’s title, phone number, and email.
**Don’t be shy! You made it to the event. Don’t hide in the back as much as your mind is telling you to. Networking happens when you approach people and ask questions.
The key is to have prepared some questions that can lead to a conversation in which you can make yourself look good. For example, you could ask a question about a specific project that interests you. This way, you can show that you put in the time to do your research and you can bring up any skills or experiences that you have that relate to the project. You have the power to steer the conversation. Ask questions that allow you to learn more but that also make it apparent that you are a good fit for the company.
While selling yourself is key, ultimately, people hire people they like—so be genuine and friendly. Come prepared, be curious, and bring your confidence and smile. You’ve got this!