Some people love networking; it’s a great opportunity to meet all sorts of people and pick their brains about different companies or industries. Other people hate it; it may feel awkward introducing yourself to people and asking them to help you advance (or start) your career. Whether you fall into one of those groups, or somewhere in between, the reality is that networking is essential to any career and it is something you must grow comfortable doing well.
While the advent of the internet and the skyrocketing popularity of professional social media like LinkedIn have made it easy to hide behind your computer screen, there really is no replacement for face-to-face contact. One of the best places to network in-person is at a career fair. Natesa, a hiring expert from Textron, says, “Career fairs are a great way to network and meet individuals working in your desired industry. You should research a few of the companies that are going to attend, decide who you may want to talk to, and prepare yourself like you’re going into an interview.”1 In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, make sure you are prepared. This will allow you to have smooth and productive conversations with the companies that are most important to you, and you won’t waste time wandering around or doing a last-minute Google search about a company before you go talk to them.
Post-college, professional organizations are one of the best ways to get connected with other individuals in your industry that don’t work at your company. Phil, a hiring expert from Merck, says, “One of my biggest pieces of advice is to get involved with any professional organizations or societies that are related to your major or field of study. Many of those organizations are international and can offer networking sessions or opportunities for committee involvement or leadership.”2 And you don’t even have to wait for graduation to join! Most professional organizations have college chapters, giving you the opportunity as a college student to get a jump on networking and potentially make connections that could land you an interview or your first job.
Leave a Good Impression
The most important thing to remember while networking, whether online or in-person, is to always leave a professional impression in others’ minds. If you want someone to help you in your career, you need to prove that you are someone worth helping. One of the easiest things you can do to cultivate your professional image is start with your online presence. Makailyn, a hiring expert from Textron, says, “Make sure that your personal email is a professional address, preferably containing your name. If your personal email is not professional or not the ideal address, then I would recommend using the email provided to you by your school.”3 Ensure that all of your communications are always professional; you want people to take you seriously and think of as a colleague, not a student.
Becoming a networking master is a surefire way to land your dream job and start climbing the corporate ladder. By putting some time and effort into making connections and meeting the right people, you can feel confident you’ll stand out among all other job seekers.