Picture yourself post graduation. You returned the U-Haul after unloading your things from your Oakland apartment and you have this shiny new degree BUT NO ONE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE.
You may have gotten straight C’s or a 4.0 but your knowledge of the labyrinthine politics of feudal systems and your mastery of how to compose the perfect Yak will get you nowhere if no employers know you exist.
You need to make connections with employers now so that you can feed and house yourself; after all, winter is coming.
This is where networking comes in.
Because most of us are close to entering the job market, I will jump right to the most important information.
- Have a resume. Make sure to keep connected with the people you met through your experiences. Ask your boss if she is willing to be a reference for you.
- Form a rough list of your network contacts. Keep them updated on what you are doing professionally. Expand your web by introducing yourself to guest speakers in lecture.
- Talk to your on-campus career services. This is a great resource for finding alumni who share your interest in conquering the seven kingdoms.
- Create a business card. Disperse to everyone you want to connect with.
- Narrow your career goals. When people ask, have a clear message for what you are looking to do and how you plan to reach your goals.
If you find that you struggle with reaching out to complete strangers, begin by reconnecting with old friends or distant relatives to get more comfortable.
This may seem cliché but be confident in you.
A confident introduction will instill an employer’s confidence in you. If you still do not feel comfortable, “Fake it til’ you make it.” Amy Cuddy gives a great TED talk about how body language shapes who you are. Not only can you change how people perceive you, but by adopting confident body language you can also change your own psychology. Watch Here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are/transcript?language=en#t-734438
In her experiments, people were asked to adopt two poses. Those in “high power” poses felt more likely to win in a contest and their testosterone (a dominance hormone) increased from their baseline by 20%.
Those who adopted “low-power” poses were less likely to gamble and their testosterone levels decreased by 10%.
Once you’ve mustered up the confidence to introduce yourself, what do you talk about? This may take some time to master. Good thing college is full of opportunities to practice small talk!
- Find an anchor, a common point between you and the person you are speaking with.
- Tell your new contact something about yourself related to the anchor. Nothing too personal but interesting enough that they can ask you questions in return.
- Don’t be afraid to delve a little deeper. Look for your contact’s passion and get them to share it with you.
- Look for how you can help your new contact. Though networking is to your benefit, there is no need to be selfish. Your willingness to help will show your contact that you are genuinely interested in them.
Making people feel important is essential for effective networking and nothing makes people feel better than hearing their own name. DO NOT FORGET IT!
Personally, I struggle with this part. Be it because of the millions of things running through my head or face-blindness, I always ask someone for their name twice.
Here are some tips I found useful in solidifying face/name recall:
- DO use their name immediately. Your short-term memory is leaky. By using new information as quickly as possible, you hustle it through to your long-term vaults.
- DON’T get caught up in the routine of meeting people. Many people struggle with remembering names because of the “next in line” effect. We are so worried about saying the right thing that we forget to actually pay attention when others are speaking. Don’t let your brain go on autopilot!
- DO make associations. Create alliterative phrases to make sure you remember your new contact’s name. The Lannister Lion is catchy and easy to picture.
- DO make note of distinctive physical features. Try and be discreet, you don’t want to come across as creepy.
Now that you’ve incorporated this person into your web, keep them there!
It’s important to follow up with your new contact. Hand them your contact information (a business card works nicely here) and find a way to stay in touch. Keep up to date with their lives and send them a birthday wish. Little acts will remind them that you care and it will keep them from forgetting you.
Best of Luck!
My little birds will have their eyes on you.