Networking plays a key role at campus and community mixers, and professional events. Networking means that when you attend an event, you do not go straight to the food or stand in the corner, instead, you mingle among the other participants. If you are shy, this may be hard for you at first, but it will get easier. And it is a wonderful way to reduce your shyness. A good rule for mingling at events is that it is easier to approach one person or a group, compared to two or three in deep conversation. If you need help starting conversations, try finding a common ground.
Finding a common ground can be a lot easier than you think if you ask the right questions and pay attention to important details, such as shirt or backpack logos or what type of food the person is eating. For example, if you see someone across the room wearing a “Pike Athletics” shirt you already know he was in a fraternity and also might enjoy playing sports. Regardless of your interest in sports or Greek Life, you can still approach this person and ask him what he enjoyed most about being in a Fraternity or what sports he played. He may end up talking about doing a philanthropy event with his fraternity, which you were also involved with in college, and now you have something to chat about.
There are many other questions you can ask to start a conversation, including:
- What brings you to this event?
- Where do you work (or what are you majoring in)?
- Where did you graduate?
- Where are you originally from?
When networking, set a goal of getting five business cards, email addresses, or even Facebook friend invites by the end of the event. Take a little note pad with you to write information down in case people don’t have business cards. When you make notes, write down one thing in common that you have with them or something that person said that stood out to you. This way when you want to email that person later (maybe even a year or two later for a job reference), you can start the email with where you met them then add a question such as “How are your two sons doing?” or “How is your screenplay coming along?” Then add something personal about yourself. This will help them remember you.
It is also good for you to have a few business cards to pass out. These cards can simply have your name, your major or field of interest, and your e-mail address. You can create your cards on your computer using Word, and then print them out on Avery business card paper, or you can have them printed at business service company such as Kinkos.
Many professional people take special note of students who come prepared with business cards. If you don’t have any business cards, make sure to email the people who gave you their cards to thank them or say it was nice meeting them. This way they will have your contact information and can contact you if a job or internship opportunity opens up.
Also, if you are at a professional or networking event, try to have an “elevator speech” prepared. This is a 30-second statement with your name and a description of the most important things about you (I’m majoring in…I am currently working on research for… I am the team captain of...). So when you are asked, “tell me more about yourself,” you can be ready with a very professional response.