It’s not just about what you know, but who you know. In The Real World, connecting meaningfully with the right people can help solidify your foot in the door. It can make a difference in you landing that job interview, internship opportunity or promotion.
Still, networking isn’t an exact science. For some, the prospect of approaching a stranger and pitching your credentials can be downright intimidating.
I’m no networking expert, but I have learned a few tips recently that I would like to share:
- Craft your pitch
Ask yourself this question: What is the most important information I want a potential connection to know about me?
It’s imperative that you communicate your best attributes to make a positive impression on someone, but also so that someone can do the same on your behalf to other connections. When the chance to make a connection arises, you need to know what to say, and you may only have 30 seconds or less to say it.
Your pitch should have these three things:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What you want to do
First, introduce yourself to your conversation partner. Make known your current position, whether it be a Southeastern communication major, intern, student reporter at the Channel, etc. Next, explain your work experience. Discuss the interesting things you’ve done. Finally, state your call-to-action. Announce your graduation date and the full-time work you’ll pursue.
Ensure that whatever information you’re speaking is relevant to your potential connection. For instance, if you’re speaking with someone who works at a marketing agency, talk about your internship experience. If you’re speaking with a producer who works at a news station, discuss what you’ve done at the Channel.
Networking is not always reciting your pitch, but it’s still a good idea to have it ready because you never know who you’ll meet. It’s also a good idea to write your pitch and add it to the “About” section of your LinkedIn profile.
- Find your opening
Your approach matters. In fact, it may be one of the things that your connection remembers about you. Let’s pull from my experience.
When I attended the 2019 PRSSA International Conference in October, I sat in on a keynote session led by a representative from Edelman, one of the biggest PR agencies in the world. During his spiel he mentioned the PR crisis that Pepsi experienced after the release of its protest-themed commercial with Kendall Jenner.
Guess who devoted her senior thesis to this crisis? Me.
After the panel ended, I approached the speaker and talked with him for several minutes about the findings of my thesis. This then led to discussion about my current experience.
Your approach to building connections can be finding something interesting about a presentation and using that as a conversation starter, or even asking a question about the presentation itself.
- Ask to keep in contact
What’s the point of having fantastic conversations with people in your field if you never speak to them again?
Ask for the person’s business card, or at the very least, make note of their name and position. From there, you can find them on LinkedIn, send a connection request and write a message referencing the conversation.
Be sure to hand them your business card as well. You can make business cards for free on Canva, remember?
- Follow up
This step is crucial, but there is a way to do this.
Reach out to your connection periodically. Wish them Happy Holidays or ask how they’re doing. You don’t want to only reach out when you need something because that comes across as disingenuous.
Once that initial connection is sparked, following up will continue to build the relationship with someone which can help you in the long run.
At this point in your college career, it’s probably been drilled into your brain about the significance of networking. Aside from conferences where you may meet people for the first time, there are plenty of opportunities to network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors or former bosses. Just ensure that you’re sincere and pitching yourself in a way that denotes your skills and employability.
I’m beginning to learn the art of networking, and I’m sure you will, too.