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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Hynes

How to Make the Most out of Networking

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Networking is one of the best ways to put yourself out there when you are a young professional entering the workforce. Connections lead to more connections, which could help you land the perfect job or internship. But speaking to people you’ve never met can be intimidating, and you only have a small window to make an impression. As a senior advertising and public relations student at MSUM, I’ve had numerous opportunities to network with alumni, as well as professionals and students in the Midwest area. My experience has provided me with some helpful tips for how to make the most of networking.

Practice Your Elevator Pitch Most networking opportunities take place during an event or conference of some kind when everyone is making the rounds. This means you have the ability to meet many people, but it also means you need to establish a connection in a small amount of time. To do this, it is important to speak succinctly and know what points you want to cover. It can help to practice this at home, so you feel comfortable and prepared. For example, before I attend a networking event,

I jot some talking points down on an index card. This usually includes: my major, my current job, what career path I’m pursuing, and a couple professional skills I want to highlight. Sometimes I even ask a friend to help me practice my elevator pitch so I can make sure I sound confident and prepared, but also natural and not robot-like.

Prepare Questions to Ask

Often when I am attending a networking event, I have some idea of who I can expect to meet. This could include featured speakers, hosts of the event, alumni I have been told will be attending, or connections I’ve made in the past who I know will be there. If that is the case, I will try to do some research into where these professionals work and what they have accomplished. Usually with this information I can come up with some personalized talking points to bring up, as well as specific questions I would love to ask them. That being said, I always end up speaking to some people I don’t know anything about, so I also try to brainstorm some general questions, such as asking how they got on their feet after graduation, or what an average day at their job looks like.

Be Flexible You’ve practiced your elevator pitch and you know exactly what points you want to cover. But now you’re introducing yourself to someone and the conversation isn’t going exactly according to your script. That’s okay! You probably won’t be able to hit every point you prepared, and in my opinion that can be a sign of a good conversation. You want the person you're speaking with to ask you questions, and to talk a bit about themself as well.

Exchange Information and Follow Up As your conversation comes to an end, be sure to exchange information in some way. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is by connecting on LinkedIn. Some people opt to print personal business cards that include an email address, phone number, and LinkedIn profile, which can serve as a tangible reminder for the person to remember to connect with you after the event. Reaching out afterwards with an “it was great to meet you!” message can be a nice touch as well. If there was anything you wanted to say to them that you were unable to fit into your conversation, you can also share that at this point.

The most important thing to remember is that networking gets easier the more you do it. I was quite nervous the first time I found myself in this situation, but now I enjoy making new connections and I feel confident doing it. I hope that these tips will help you as much as they helped me!

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