Networking can be a valuable skill and resource to helping you find a future job or internship. Online networks such as LinkedIn have become popular over the past few years. However, it is important to remember that talking with people face to face can help you to form valuable connections as well. The idea of networking can seem like a scary thing at first; what most of us don’t realize is that every person you know is a potential network.
It was first suggested to me as a freshman that I should attend a networking event. At the time I didn’t think I would benefit from the event because I was just a lost freshman who didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had always been under the impression that networking was only something you needed to do if you were going into a business profession and that it would be useless for someone going into a health field. I was very wrong about that! Since then, I have attended a few networking events and have come to see how valuable some of these connections can be.
Worried about not knowing what to do at your first formal networking event? Here is some of my advice to you:
- Everyone you talk to could potentially be a valuable connection
- Even people with unrelated majors or jobs may be able to provide you with useful information. You never know who these people may know or how their different life experiences may relate to you.
- Stay focused and engaged on the conversation
- Show you are interested in what the person is saying by asking follow-up questions and connecting your interests or experiences to theirs. Avoid playing with your hair or crossing your arms, any body language that would come off as being disinterested.
- Get the conversation going
- If there is food at the event one of the easiest ways to strike up conversation is to talk about the food. Once you’ve sparked a conversation, introduce yourself. From there it’s okay to discuss your campus involvement, majors and more personal topics to see if can discover a common interest. But don’t forget to learn about the other person, after all that is the whole reason you’re there isn’t it?
- Some topics of conversation aren’t typically appropriate for a networking situation, try to avoid potentially controversial topics or discussing any stories that you wouldn’t want to share at a job interview.
Still nervous, but think you should give networking a try? Many organizations host networking nights every semester which is a great place to start. All the alumni voluntarily attend and come to help out fellow Huskies! One upcoming event will be on Wednesday, November 12th, and you can preregister at www.uconnalumni.com.