Top 5 Tips from a Career Centre Workshop
Written by Sarah Katz
Did you miss the workshop “Making Connections at b2B”? Don’t panic just yet; we managed to take some notes down so you can be prepared for the next b2B event and any future networking setting!
Networking can sometimes be easier than one might think. Typically, students find it easier to network in more formal situations; where you can follow more of a scripted dialogue. It’s also easier to network when you have some type of common ground with the other person, similarities such as the program you’re studying or the industry you want to enter. Students found that networking was more difficult when they had less or no common ground at all, or when groups were pre-established. These settings can be quite intimidating and challenging to take on. So how do students overcome these fears and network efficiently? These Top 5 Takeaways might be able to help:
- You’ve got the power! Or at least act like you do. Students face difficulties with networking when they feel they don’t have anything important to offer or are intimidated by a professional who seems like they have “power” over a situation or a student’s future career. An important takeaway from the workshop was to always remember that you do have something to offer and to focus on that! Whether it’s academic knowledge, people skills, or just the ability to hold a good conversation, all of these qualities are something that you can offer to an employer or professional.
- The scariest part doesn’t have to be scary. The next portion of the workshop focused on the most intimidating part – actually networking. Approaching a professional can be the most challenging part of the process, so how do students do it? There are many ways to do it, but some tips include:
- Finding common ground. If you know what alumni you’ll be meeting, try doing some research on LinkedIn, or even a quick Google search. Knowing a bit about the person you’re talking to can go a long way.
- Body language is key. Try to make an impact with a handshake, eye contact and plain and simple – a smile. These are straightforward gestures that let the professional know you are serious about the situation but are also approachable yourself.
- Small talk can mean a lot of different things, but it’s important to master it. Know that the alumnus you’re speaking with is a person too, so try and find a mutual connection; but don’t overdo it. Make sure it’s present but doesn’t dominate the conversation.
- Lastly, ask them about themselves! (Especially about the information you’ve researched about them). This is a definite way of gathering information about what they did with their degrees and learning more about how they got to where they are.
- You already HAVE a network! Your network consists of many different people, such as other students who are in your classes, professors who are working in the same fields you are interested in, and connectors, which include people who are connected to you and have connections to other people (such as professionals or alumni). All of these people make up an extensive network that you may not have even realized. Your network consists of people who share the same goals as you do, the same interests, and the same knowledge base.
- Having a plan makes a huge difference. After you have realized these important aspects of networking, it’s crucial to devise a plan. A key element of making a plan is to recognize what you need to do in order to make an impact on the alumni. The workshop discussed two main points that can affect your networking plan. First, you must differentiate yourself. This is critical because it shows that you have something different than the rest of your peers and it will allow the alumnus to remember you in a large pool of students. The other main idea discussed was in conversations with alumni, you should talk about your individual academic plan. This gives the alumnus insight on what you are planning to do with your career and how their personal path relates to yours; as well as what information they can provide you with to help you on your journey.
- TTYL. Last but certainly not least (and arguably the most important component of networking) is maintaining your network. If you’ve done everything to the best of your ability, met industry professionals who can really help, it’s vital that you keep these connections. This is the ultimate goal of networking! There are various resources that can help you do just that. One example could be sending a “Thank You” note to the alumnus as a type of follow-up. Make sure to include where you met and provide any information that they may request. Another great resource is LinkedIn. This is a great way of maintaining your network because it provides another outlet to follow-up with alumni, as well as seeing what next steps they are taking in their career.
These are some key steps in creating an extensive, beneficial network moving forward in your degree and eventually your career. Having these resources and creating connections with alumni is a great way of entering the professional world. It grants you with a certain familiarity and confidence to strive to be the best that you can be. Make sure to sign up for a b2B event to test out these steps!