Uncomfortable suits, bad finger food and the smell of desperation and disinterest fill the room. We’ve all felt the pressure to attend a networking event, and while the goal in the beginning is to be a superstar at mixing and mingling, you usually end up in a forced game of 20 questions with a business card as a prize.
Many students and young professionals think they are being proactive about their futures by attending networking events, but in all honesty, it's a little bit lazy. Here are a few things you need to do if you want to network effectively and stand out from the other resume pushers.
It’s worth a google
For the love of all things good, start with Google. If you’re interested in a company, industry or individual, use the Internet to find out all you can about them. Read bios, skim through case studies and approach them only when you can speak to their company’s interests and ask informed questions.
Become a fan
Show your interest through action. Follow them on their social media platforms, attend events they are hosting, create a Google Alert for their company so you know when they win awards or make a new product. People and companies love to be loved, and a well-informed question about a new product is much better than a desperate plea for an interview.
Show genuine interest
When you attend networking events, most people are going table to table asking generic “tell me about…” questions that are often painful and boring for individuals on the other side of the table. If you’re actually interested in a company and their work, prove it. Mention them in a tweet praising their work, send them an email expressing interest in grabbing coffee or touring the office. Intentional communication will always win over monotonous introductions.
Find friends of the people you want to meet
People often say, “Sometimes it’s not just about who you know, but who they know,” and when it comes to networking, this could not be more true. Engage with your professors and let them know your interests. This is seriously the best use of tuition and one of the most underrated aspects of the college experience. Your professors can be your greatest advocates and best resources to learn more about great opportunities in your industry. Find the friends or co-workers of the people you want to know, and impress them with your hard work.
The real networking events aren’t networking events
Many people don’t see a faculty happy hour or an industry award ceremony as a technical networking event, but they should. What better excuse to introduce yourself to a CEO than a “Congrats on your award” introduction? The answer is: none. Be present at events that matter to people in your industry. If you stick around long enough, they will notice.
Ultimately, it’s best to network the good ol’-fashioned way, with authentic conversations. Hone your craft, do your research and be intentional about reaching out to people you admire. Now go get that job.