No, you may not be interested in learning the finer (and less painful) points of drawing blood, but attending a networking session with any group – parents, neighbors, roommate’s family – is valuable. First of all, it allows you to hone your “elevator pitch” on who you are and where you’d like to go. But it also will potentially connect you with someone who knows someone who knows someone who might have a job or internship in your field of interest.
Does everyone want to hear your elevator pitch? Maybe not. One of the essentials of effective networking is being able to read your audience. Learn something about others in the room, and get a feel for whether they want to know more about you. In most cases, they will. And in many cases, they will have a suggestion for you. “I’m not in that field, but a friend (or neighbor or relative) is. Here’s his number. “ And if that person doesn’t offer, be sure to ask whether it’s OK to mention this conversation.
Networking doesn’t end after the event. Be sure to follow-up with both the “lead” and the originator. Letting someone know you’ve followed through on their suggestion will encourage them to provide more leads, potentially, and it may also create a reference for you. This contact may now reach out on your behalf, with “I haven’t worked specifically with this person, but I know he/she’s well-spoken and follows up. We had a very good conversation at an event last week.” Your follow-through will serve to make a more lasting impression than just a quick elevator pitch at a networking event.
And don’t forget to connect with the people you met at networking events through LinkedIn. Explain where you met, don’t just use the canned LinkedIn connect message. Down the road, you may find that there’s a connection between that person and a job you’re seeking.
So enjoy your networking opportunities and don’t shy away from those that might seem outlandish. You never know who might know someone who can help you land that next opportunity.
-Lisa McGuire, Assistant Director for Corporate Partner Relations