You’ve probably heard it before: "Who you know is more important than what you know."
Building secure connections with professionals and non-professionals alike has been emphasized since career oriented conversations began. But why is networking so important? How do you make these "connections" anyway? I was lucky enough to receive some insight from UBWA alumna Sarah Burger, a recent Fisher graduate and current Financial Analyst in the General Motors Finance TRACK program. She was able to help develop a best practice list on how to make these meaningful relationships less intimidating and even more impactful.
1) Don't let the nerves stop you— prepare!
If the thought of even attending a networking event is intimidating, you are not alone. Building up the confidence to participate in an event that is outside of your comfort zone can be half the battle. There are a few preparation steps you can take to minimize the stress. Sarah explained, "Before every one-on-one that I did, I wrote a list of questions based on the role that they held and their previous roles that I found on LinkedIn. There are also a couple of questions that you can ask to anyone that you can always have in your back pocket (i.e., tell me about your career path, what advice do you have for someone starting their career, what's the best part about your current job and what's the most frustrating part)." Being able to pull from a few conversation points will help calm the nerves and guide the conversation in a meaningful way.
2) Communicate your purpose in a genuine way
Often, the idea of making connections can feel overbearing or forced. But networking is a two-way street; it's about building a meaningful relationship, and the best way to begin is by being honest. Sarah says, "If you're trying to get an internship, make sure you tell the recruiter that you're interested in the internship and why you're interested. If you're in a full-time job and are looking to move to another area of the company, tell the person you're networking with that you're interested in their area and ask questions around the area." Being able to communicate your intentions will help the recruiter or professional understand the best way to direct you to the resources you need and guide the conversation.
Head into a networking event with a concise, memorable elevator pitch that showcases your background, experiences, and presents your professional goals. It does not have to be as forward as asking for what you want. Sarah recommends to, "Go to a recruiter's office hours or reach out to set up a time to talk about their career and most of the time that will turn into a discussion of how they can help you in your career."
Smile! Being able to communicate your eagerness in a meaningful, warm way will make the conversation even more memorable. Sarah emphasizes the importance of interest. "Be nice, be personable, and be genuine. If you are enjoyable to talk to, it makes networking so much easier." Asking questions about professional experiences and empathetic listening will go a long way in showing a recruiter that you are truly interested in creating a relationship with them and their company.
4) Keep in touch & follow up!
Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you've had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner what the best way to stay in contact is and reach out a second time within the next 48 hours. Sarah provided a great example of how networking through your freshman to junior year of undergrad can help significantly in the professional job hunt if the relationships are maintained. "If you take an internship that you don't end up liking but have maintained those connections from junior year, it's a lot easier to find a full-time job your senior year."
5) Confidence is Key
Being confident in what you are trying to communicate can be just as impactful as what you are saying. As the saying goes, "fake it 'til you make it." Head into the experience with some outlined goals. Determining the outcomes ahead of time in a positive light will boost your confidence and help you focus. Body language also says a lot; shoulders back, head high!
Approaching networking with these tips will hopefully help you shake the nerves of networking and make the connections that will boost your professional development beyond Ohio State! If you have any specific questions about networking or would just like to chat further about the topic of this blog post, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn further about me or our featured alumna in this post, click on the Blog Committee button and the Featured Alumnae button on the blog's webpage! I would like to also thank Sarah Burger for the incredible insight!