By Christina Flores-Chan
Who you know is important in almost every industry and students are reminded of it over and over throughout their university careers.
In 2021, a survey by American software developer and marketing company HubSpot, found that 85 per cent of jobs were filled through networking.
And despite its importance, schmoozing at industry events or through Zoom rooms can sometimes feel like being the wallflower in the corner of the gym during a middle school dance, especially if you’re introverted or have a shy personality.
Feeling awkward and out-of-place at networking events is not an uncommon sentiment for students while they’re trying to make connections in their respective industry for the first time.
Nonetheless, knowing how to make connections is important and can be helpful in learning about the experiences and internal insights of professionals working in industries that students are studying and looking to enter.
Here are a few ways to help students network with more authenticity, ease and efficacy, even if they’re not always particularly eager to schmooze.
Plan what you want to accomplish from networking events and begin preparing for them ahead of time. Students should study the event agenda, whether it be researching the keynote speakers or writing down potential questions to ask professionals they meet during lunch or dinner breaks.
Students may also benefit from solidifying their “elevator pitch,” a brief description of who they are, what they do and what they can offer, that they can use when introducing themselves to other attendees. Tech and business blog site Lifehacker advises that people should prioritize information about themselves concisely, use plain language and practice their pitch ahead of reciting it to potential connections. The more comfortable students are with reciting their pitch, the easier each new introduction will be.
Set a goal for yourself
When students’ goals are outlined clearly, they may become easier to accomplish and track.
According to an article in Forbes, setting a goal for oneself to get to know a minimum number of people at events can help students hold themselves accountable to follow through in making connections. After the goal has been met, students can then go home and feel satisfied because they successfully did what they came to the event to do. The article states that after meeting the targeted amount of people, attendees might even decide to stay longer because they’re having fun.
Think about what you can offer
Each person has something valuable and unique that they can bring to their workplace.
Students can benefit from understanding what they bring to the table, such as digital skills or knowledge of relevant trends, and how they might be useful to networking connections. In turn, students may gain experience and learning opportunities in their field of choice and forge good professional relationships.
For instance, Harvard Business Review writes about Claude Grunitzky, the founder of TRACE magazine, TRACE TV and TRUE Africa who got his start in journalism at Jefferson Hack’s media conglomerate Dazed Media.
Grunitzky told the Review that in his junior years, he knew he could “bring something to [Jefferson Hack], which was expertise in hip-hop” and that the relationship ended up being a two-way street, alluding to his later success.
Once students have made a connection with someone in their industry, the next step is to continue to develop a professional relationship with them.
Forbes suggests that asking the new connection if they’d be willing to keep in touch via Linkedin, email or meet up for coffee is both flattering for them and allows students to keep learning more.