We know, even the word “networking” gives you chills and a nervous stomach, but we’re here to tell you—it’s not that bad! We’re all beginners at some point, but we promise it gets better with practice.
Why do I need to network?
Well… lots of reasons! It’s an important skill to be able to walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself, and have a substantial conversation. Communication skills are essential and sought after in any job you will ever have. Networking is just one way to work on those verbal skills.
Plus, making connections and building relationships are crucial for career and professional development, learning new things and ideas, meeting others like you, showcasing your skills, and of course, job prospecting.
In a 2020 LinkedIn survey, networking filled 85% of available jobs.
Okay, but when and where do I start networking?
Right here and right now! It’s never too early or too late to start networking. And that’s what the UMPPF is here for. We provide all the tools and opportunities you need—interviewing skills, networking events, seminars, and workshops. Plus, if you’re involved with any sports, campus groups or clubs, that counts too.
Networking isn’t something you need to do everyday, but keep your eye open for potential opportunities. Is there an upcoming conference in your field? A job fair? A new business opening in your town? Even an upcoming wedding where you don’t know any other guests can be great networking practice.
According to a recent survey, 70% of jobs aren’t advertised, making networking a crucial skill.
Isn’t networking boring and stuffy?
No way! Attend events that interest you, or at the very least, intrigue you. We even suggest attending events where you may not know much about the topic at all to broaden your horizons.
When you’re there, share and listen to personal stories. Talk with people who have interesting jobs. Better yet, talk with people who have the job you want. Bring a friend or colleague with you to help hype you up and keep you at ease. In other words, bring some of the fun with you!
What are your best tips for getting out there and networking confidently?
We thought you’d never ask! And we agree, networking confidently is key and can be done with the following advice.
- First impressions always matter. Present yourself well. Make eye contact when introducing yourself and shaking someone’s hand. If the event is casual, great! That may help relax you, but definitely dress to impress and show your amazing personality. If you need to create a nametag, write your name large and legibly!
- Be prepared. You should be able to effectively market yourself anywhere, anytime within 30 seconds. Also known as an “elevator pitch,” you should be able to explain who you are, what you do, and how you help in a short, confident “mini speech.” It’s also important to do a little background research on the event. Who’s it for? Why is it happening? Is there an event sponsor you’d like to meet? Do a little research first—it goes a long way.
- Ask questions. Engage the person you’ve just met by asking them questions. Where they work and what they do are always good places to start, but don’t be afraid to go a little deeper. Ask them their favorite part of their job. What they did to achieve their career goals. You can even ask them for career advice! Just be sure to actually listen when they answer. And also steer clear from too personal questions.
- Be yourself. We know—how many times have you heard that? But it’s great advice for a reason. You’re looking to make authentic connections while networking and you don’t want to embellish anything. (It will backfire later on.) If it helps to psych yourself up before the event, go for it! Embrace your qualities, accomplishments, and what makes you you. Which leads us to our next point…
- Avoid the comparison trap. And also imposter syndrome. Everyone compares themselves to others and experiences imposter syndrome, believe us. But that doesn’t mean you need to succumb to it. It’s cliché, but you can’t judge a book by its cover and you never know what someone is thinking, feeling, or what they’ve been through or accomplished. Embrace who you are, it’s more than enough. We promise.
- Offer to help. You’re networking to meet people, make connections, and possibly land a new job or promotion (all great things). But it’s important that you don’t go into networking events expecting anything in return. Attend with generosity in mind and you’ll come across as a valuable resource and a team player. What you might offer doesn’t necessarily have to be connected to your job, either. Have experience coaching youth soccer? Offer to fill in when needed. Are you great at writing resumes? Offer to look over someone’s resume who’s applying for the first time.
- Get involved in extracurriculars and/or your local community. We suggest participating in extracurriculars that interest you, otherwise, you may resent going or not even go at all. (We’ve all been there, too.) The more engaged and interested you are in an activity, the better. Similarly, attend events, workshops, and volunteer opportunities in your local community that intrigue you or that you may have a knack for and enjoy. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can and be sure to give them your “pitch.” When they’re looking for someone like you—or when someone they know is looking for someone like you—your name will come right up. Score!
- Follow up. The same goes for if you’ve had a recent job interview, but always, always, always follow up with new connections. Thank them for talking with you and share some memorable/funny/interesting things you both talked about. They’ll appreciate the acknowledgement and you’ll stay on top of their mind. Win-win!
- Leverage LinkedIn. Colleagues and companies alike are using LinkedIn. Create a profile, if you haven’t already, and keep it updated. Since LinkedIn is a social media platform with professionals in mind, be sure you’re sharing relevant information. The platform has seen recent changes in the types of content posted, namely people being more “real” on LinkedIn, so don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Stay genuine, be workplace appropriate, and engage with others. LinkedIn is a strong networking tool.
- Keep networking. If you started networking to land a cool job and you got it (congratulations!), you’ll still want to keep networking. Your career will evolve over time and so should your social sphere. Plus, it’s not just about getting a job. Networking is about making connections and building relationships. Bonus: the more you do it, the better you’ll get!
- Introduce yourself to the event speaker. Thank them for sharing their expertise with the crowd and ask a quick question or share your favorite part of their presentation. If they offer you their contact information, most definitely follow up asap!
- If you see someone alone at an event, walk up to them. We guarantee that they’ll be appreciative for someone to talk to and that you’ve broken the ice for them.
- Help a friend out. If one of your friends is nervous about going to an event, tag along! Help them out with these tips that you’ve just learned. It’s great practice for the both of you and they’ll be thankful you joined them.
And on the other hand, here are a few things to avoid:
- Sitting in a corner, alone
- Staring at or scrolling on your phone
- Talking about yourself too much in conversation
- Drinking too much alcohol—use your best judgment for when/when not to drink
- Being disingenuous, exaggerating, or making up stories about yourself
- Not following up with new contacts and connections
Be present, engaged, and listen carefully to others. Ask genuine questions and offer to help if it feels appropriate. And of course, be yourself and try to have fun! You never know who you’ll meet or what could happen by keeping an open mind and getting out there. Good luck!
If this topic encourages you, we’d love to hear about it! Learn more about how we help engineering students here.