One of the most beneficial career tools for students are networking career fairs. Participants are encourage to meet and greet other professional recruiters and managers that have openings in jobs for college graduates. Unfortunately for some, these events can be an intimidating affair due to a lack of networking skills.
Not many people are born with the ability to talk to just anyone at the drop of a hat – many people need to develop it. It won’t happen right away, but here are some networking tips to help set you apart from the rest of the other fish in the ever-growing sea of applicants.
One of the worst habits to develop is interrupting someone in the middle of speaking. Barring any massive, life-threatening emergency, you should never cut someone off to share your own thoughts. It’s both rude and unprofessional. This also goes for approaching a group of people that may be recruiters at a networking event. Don’t cut in the middle of their conversation to introduce yourself – wait for the opportune moment. Managers don’t want to hire graduates that lack conversational skills, so if you feel like you struggle with interruptions, work on it at parties or casual functions.
Talk all the time
You might think it’s annoying to strike up conversation with anyone, but it can have a seriously positive impact on your networking skills. You’ll eventually become so comfortable in your own skin that sitting down with recruiters becomes far easier. Making small talk should be ingrained in your mind by the time you attend a career or networking fair on campus. It gives you networking momentum that eventually snowballs into something big and fast.
Psychologically speaking, a smile is both contagious and comforting. It makes you appear more personable, friendly and approachable by strangers. When you’re looking to talk with recruiters about internships, your smiling lets them know you’re a courteous professional ready to make lifelong connections.
Focus on the recruiter
When you attend a networking event, you may feel as if your professional career is being put under a microscope and picked apart. But really, the recruiters and managers looking to talk to college students are very unaware of what you’ve done with your career. Rather than stand there and talk about your own accomplishments, ask them to explain some of the company’s successes and goals – they’ll be happy to talk up their company. But don’t stand there with your mouth closed and only your ears open – participate after they’re finished. Once you understand the kind of work they do or are interested in, begin to work in your goals as an employee and what professional experience you have to positively contribute to the company.
It may seem cliché and childish, but finding a new person every day to teach you lessons can improve your skills as a networking professional. You can easily hop on the Internet to find an individual worth admiring, but also look in newspaper and magazines. But it also doesn’t necessarily need to be a human who inspires you – it could be a pet that makes you realize life doesn’t need to be mundane or repetitive. The key thing to remember is that it’s your inspiration and you can find it any way you please.
Friends, not strangers
All too often, people view others at a networking fair as complete strangers that can’t be approached. However, this only serves to hurt your abilities to effectively communicate and make connections. Don’t view all of the new faces in the room as strangers, but rather as new friends you have yet to meet. Keep eye contact, shake hands, get names and some quick information and commit it all to memory.
It isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary aspect of your professional career. Being able to effectively network with other professionals can set you up for a long and successful career.
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