Networking is one of, if not the greatest, skill an ambitious student can possess as they prepare for life after dorm rooms, classes, and fraternity parties. That being said, networking is not just as simple as meeting people and handing out business cards. Nor is your networking measured in the amount of business cards you come home with or the amount of people you pitch your experience to. Because in networking, quality trumps quantity any day of the week.
Here are some tips to make sure you’re building the connections you need.
Business cards are not collectibles
When at a networking event with other students and professionals, it shouldn’t be your goal to get a hundred business cards. Quality trumps quantity any day of the week. When bouncing around, there is little room for fostering conversation or actually connecting with someone. Sometimes you just don’t have to time to really talk with someone, but your goal should never be to grab his or her card instead of a meaningful conversation. Trust me, a conversation will always resonate more than a business card.
In these conversations, you should keep in mind that getting contacts isn’t enough. Fostering an actual connection should always be the goal.
Stories not agendas
If you really do want to build meaningful connections, you shouldn’t go into conversations with a set agenda, but rather a story. Trust me, professionals do not want to hear your elevator pitch. That’s not why they are there and that certainly shouldn’t be your reason for being there.
Go into conversations with a story to tell about yourself. Paint the picture. You only get a small window to engage the other person, and it shouldn’t be wasted with a pitch or resume run through. Be unique and think about how you can build relationships through conversation rather than contact information.
Always follow up
After you leave an event of successful networking and connection building, the conversations you had shouldn’t end. As a student or young professional, you should always take the time to reach back out and continue your conversations.
Fostering consistent communication is important to any career development and can put you at a clear advantage over the competition. Online, having someone say “oh yeah, I’ve tweeted with them” doesn’t exactly mean you’re best friends. In the real world, “I’ve met him once” carries just about the same weight. It is your job to be memorable and remarkable to those that you meet. Following up is the first step.
What networking practices have worked for you?
Harrison is the Community Manager at MBA@UNC, the new Online MBA program at the University of North Carolina and sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive. As evidenced through his previous projects, Harrison has a passion for all things social media, philanthropy, and finding new ways for students to understand the power of a brand. Before moving to New York and while still a student at Temple University, Harrison founded the PR/Social Media consulting firm, Kratz PR as well as Engage TV and the #PRStudCast podcast. Feel free to connect with him to discuss community, social good, branding, or the Philadelphia Phillies on Twitter, @KratzPR or Linkedin.