BY: JONATHAN WOOD
I’ve been to scores of speaker and networking events during my time at UD, and they have been one of the most valuable parts of my education. Furthermore, every internship and opportunity I’ve had has come from knowing someone, often someone I met at one of these events. While in college, I’ve never had to go through the stressful interview process to find a job, because I always know who needs my skills and who I can call on to work for. And because they already know me and my abilities, they are happy to hire me instead of going through the tiresome process of interviewing 10 strangers.
The good news is, getting to this point is easy. It simply takes a bit of initiative. There are plenty of ways to get connected with leaders in your industry, and most professionals are happy to give advice and help to young students.
Here, I’m going to share with you 5 steps to effectively network, build your connections, and get to know more people and opportunities in your industry!
- Show up
“Once begun, the job’s half done”. It is difficult to connect with people on a personal level unless you show up in person. Fortunately, as a student, there are lots of opportunities for you to network designed with you in mind! These are events open to students, where the presenters / speakers have come specifically because they want to engage with and help students. Don’t be shy at these events, the speakers want you there! Here are just a few such events:
- Free Lunch Friday – Free lunch, and various entrepreneurs eager to share their stories and hear from you. Hosted every Friday 11am-12noon, at 132 East Delaware Avenue, and sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Club.
- University Events – Departments regularly send updates on events on campus relevant to your major. These aren’t just relevant, they’re accessible! They are also free, and sometimes include food!
- Local Meetups. Head over to http://www.meetup.com, and check out other specific events in the area. These are for a broader audience, but are still filled with people eager to learn and very open to younger talent walking in.
Once at an event, you need to engage with others. The best way to do that is to listen to what they have to say. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t love to talk about themselves, they love others to listen to them. That’s because humans aren’t vain, but deep down, we all want to be acknowledged, accepted and understood by other people. By listening to others, you are giving them the gift of being acknowledged. You are also learning, about their experience, themselves, and their expertise.
A big mistake many people make when someone else is talking is they are thinking about their next response, and thus not listening! When someone else is sharing their thoughts with you, you don’t need to formulate a genius response. Just hear what they have to say, and maybe take your time when answering.
- Ask Questions
As you listen, speak up, and get engaged! Ask people questions about themselves, and dig deep! If you are in an audience with a speaker, asking a question at the end can help you stand out in the crowd. I’ve had people approach me after speaker panels simply because I stood up and asked a question during Q&A. I also instantly stood out to the speaker and connected with them on a personal level. Asking questions can thus be the easiest way to start networking.
Nothing is more embarrassing than meeting a wonderful person, then meeting them again and not remembering anything about your last meeting. Remember what you talked about, what their name is, and what they like. If you are listening, and reaching out to people you are honestly interested in, this should be easy.
- Follow Up
It would be a shame to go through all this work and never talk to any of the wonderful people you meet again. Keep in touch. Connect with professionals on LinkedIn, follow them, and maybe ping them every few weeks (This can be as simple as “Hey Sally, read this article and thought you might be interested.”). Ask for people’s emails at events, and send them a quick message thanking them for their time. The most considerate form of thank you is still the written letter.
Questions on effective networking? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Jonathan Wood is a Serial Entrepreneur and Emerging Technologies Consultant. He builds businesses and systems to solve problems in the world, such as voting and education. At the same time, he is working to help others understand new technologies, such as Blockchain, and how to adapt to them. Jonathan is a sophomore student at the University of Delaware studying Economics and Computer Science with a minor in Entrepreunership.