Do’s and Don’ts of Networking as a Student
The strongest skill developed while attending St. Lawrence College, other than how to manage about a dozen important and equally stressful things at once, is an ability to network effectively. At the School of Business, the importance of networking is an integral part of finding your dream career after graduation, and is instilled from the very beginning. Students are offered many opportunities to meet new people, both other students/faculty and businesses in the community, that it isn’t difficult for those who put an effort in.
Networking is also a great chance to talk to people who are working in your chosen field. You may find it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and may want to take a slight turn in your prospects, or you may learn to love your chosen career path even more and will know what companies look for when hiring recent grads. Build your reliable relationships now and you will build important soft skills that you can use in your career.
Actually, networking doesn’t have to be boring, and the only people who think it is are the people who have never tried. Shaking hands and going to business meetings is a flawed image of what people think networking is. It’s actually speaking to the people around you, taking every opportunity you have to meet people, and to break out of your shell and believe that you can be a valuable contact for the other people around you. Trust us, you’re not bugging people by talking to them, you’re actually helping them build their own networks. If you’re there to help them, they’ll help you. Hopefully.
Here is a compilation of the do’s and don’ts that we believe every student should know when trying to meet influential people and grow their network. Starting with the most important one first:
Do have a business card.
Don’t think you’re not professional enough to need one. It’s best to start now and have your information begin its journey into the business world and to start building these skills. It’s important not to hand your business card out to everyone you meet, though. Chances are, it’ll end up thrown out and you’ll end up paying quite a bit to have new ones made every month. Wait and see if they ask you for one first. If someone offers you their business card, take it. Don’t wait too long to follow up; you want them to actually remember speaking to you.
Do have an elevator pitch.
Don’t sell yourself out. Always have something, however small, prepared to tell people when they ask about you and your career goals. It’s definitely not a good idea for most people to try and think of something on the spot. This is your chance to show what you’ve got, so don’t be too modest about your skills and what you can do for someone. Don’t go overboard either. It definitely takes a bit of practice to make it come across natural and not make you seem full of yourself.
Do attend as many business mixers as you can.
Don’t show up and speak to no one. It’s always best to dress as business forward as you comfortably can at events like these, as first impressions are important. Don’t stand off to the side and wait for professionals to come to you. Do your research and find out who will be there and what they look like. Even come up with some strategic conversation starters to grab their attention. They’ll know you took the time to find out who they are and what they do. This is your opportunity to shine.
Do have a LinkedIn profile.
Don’t have one if you’re not going to keep it current. Linkedin has become an amazing resource for new business professionals to network with business leaders. We’ve been able to connect with so many people through LinkedIn, and would have to owe a bit of our networking success to this site. In 2011, 89% of recruiters said they hired someone through Linkedin.
Do act on your opportunities, don’t let them pass you by!
Do ask people their passion.
Don’t ask them “what do you do?”, because there’s a good chance that you don’t really care about the answer, and they know this. I admit this last bit of advice isn’t mine, it’s Mark. E. Sackett’s, a successful creative businessman, who founded The Art of Active Networking. This tip is still relevant to every single person today who wants to make it in the business world.
Don’t chase people to be part of your network; do be true to yourself.
Like the saying, “you shouldn’t have to pay for work that should be paying you”, if someone doesn’t see your worth, it’s their problem. If you focus on building yourself and talk to the people you know you can help, the right networks will come to you.
We’re certain that, if you don’t network as a student, especially if you’re in business school, you will have a harder time finding a job afterward. Being surrounded by so many like minds, it’s almost impossible to not network while you’re at school. You’re bound to start a conversation with someone, and that person will know someone who may know someone and so on.
And remember, it’s less about who you know that can get you a job, and more on who you will know that can help you keep that job and build your career in the future.
Let us know how these tips work for you, and if you have any of your own special methods for networking.
Kimberley Falk - Multimedia Writer