The beginner’s guide to networking nights

The beginner’s guide to networking nights     By Sarah Stone

Walking into a room full of intelligent professionals with years of experience can be daunting. It’s as if you’re walking in with just your underwear on and expected to introduce yourself. What feels like an eternity to shake hands and introduce yourself is merely 10 seconds. That’s how I felt when I attended my first CUSS networking night.

Not knowing what to expect or how to network made it confusing. However, after attending several networking nights, I have picked up on some obvious and some not so obvious tips and etiquette. So I’ve decided to share some do’s and do not’s of networking to help prepare you for  upcoming CUSS Networking Night 

DO!

Do: Decide why you are going!

Are you going for practice, to build your knowledge, or to build your network? Deciding this can help achieve what you want to get out of the night. If you’re interested in figuring out where a degree in Communication can take you, you are more likely to want to observe and ask questions.

Do: Bring business cards!

If you are interested in building your network you are going to need to exchange contact information in order to meet up. It’s great that cell phone exists and are wonderful communication tools, but you will not have time to start typing their name, e-mail, phone number, LinkedIn, Twitter name, etc.

Do: Bring a notepad and pen!

Bringing a small notepad and pen allows you to take notes on the side of which professionals you talked to and key points you may want to address at a later time. Not everybody does this, but it’s not unheard of. In my opinion, I need a notepad because I am terrible at remembering names and mix everyone’s information.

Do: Dress for success!

Although this is a networking night, you want to dress as if you are attending an interview. Wearing the hoodies in class may be comfortable, but ensure you have an outfit that conveys how you want to present yourself as a professional.

Do: Bring a friend!

It’s okay to go with friends. However, when you’re there it is important not to be attached to the hip. You only have a certain amount of time to present yourself and ask questions. Being separated allows you to remove yourself from your comfort zone and get the chance to network without any distractions and limitations by having to follow a friend.

Do: Introduce yourself and shake hands!

It’s the polite thing to do, eh?

Do: Have your “elevator pitch”!

If you had 10 seconds to introduce yourself to the most influential business leader in your field of interest, what would you say? If you are coming up blank, remember to have this ready!

Do: Ask questions!

It’s amazing how many times a professional lights up when I say “I read X, Y, and Z, on your LinkedIn/biography/company website”.  Regardless as to why you are attending a networking night, it’s important to ask insightful questions. If there is a list of professionals already featured, do the research and learn about them! These professionals are giving up their time to be available to help you out. Take advantage of this opportunity. This also involves being engaged and making eye contact. No one wants to sit with people looking around the room figuring out what to order at the bar.

Do: Create a LinkedIn account!

There are numerus reasons as to why you should have a LinkedIn account. It’s a wonderful tool to stay connected on a personal yet professional basis with contacts that can refer your resume to future prospects. It also doesn’t hurt to add your peers from class. Just because they are currently students does not mean they won’t be successful in the future. Wouldn’t you like to stay in touch?

DO NOT!

Do not: Bring a resume!

The purpose of a networking night is to create a relationship with other professionals. It is not a job fair. Networking nights are created to introduce people in similar industries that can continue to build relationships after the event.

Do not: Interrupt the speaker!

Regardless of who is speaking, wait your turn. Try to speak 20% of the time and guide your questions back to the professional so they have 60%-80% speaking time while on the floor.

Do not: Social “network”!

Although you are at a networking night, it’s important to avoid any social networking you may have the urge to do. This includes texting. Keep your phone in your pocket or purse. If you wouldn’t do it in an interview, do not do it at a networking event!

Do not: Drink too much!

It’s okay to drink. However, it is important to know your limit and avoid exceeding that amount. It’s a professional setting and you do not want your lead interest to remember you stumbling around or saying the wrong thing.

Do not: Be late!

Similar to a job interview, it’s important to show up on time. It conveys that you respect the guest’s time and value their attendance. Also, CUSS will not refund your payment for this event if you are late or cannot attend.

After each interaction, remember to thank the professional for their time and any insight or help they have aided you with.

If you have any tips for networking, share them below or tweet us using #CUSSConnect !

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