In order to get the most out of a networking event, you need to engage in some planning and preparation, just like you would for an upcoming game or final examination.
Establish a Goal(s)
Start by asking yourself "What is/are my goal(s) in attending this event?" Is/are your goal(s) to:
- Obtain 10 new LinkedIn connections?
- Learn more about an industry or company?
- Discover new internship or employment opportunities?
- Increase knowledge in your field regarding new products, services, resources, techniques, etc.?
- Establish a new professional relationship with an expert or alumnus in the field?
- Engage new connections with a particular company or industry, or within a certain geographical location?
- [Insert your goal here]
Research the Market
- Determine who is attending. Is there a list of attendees?
- Learn about the employers/individuals attending (e.g., what they do, competitors, opportunities, etc.).
- Create a list of employers/individuals with whom you want to speak. This could be based on industry, field of interest, location, company, etc.
- Prepare questions to ask your list of employers/individuals. For example, consider questions that explore the following topics:
- What the company is looking for in an employee. (What does a successful employee look like?)
- Information and knowledge about the hiring process. (What does the hiring process consist of?)
- Information and knowledge about an employer that helps you evaluate your interest in them. (In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?)
- Individuals/recruiters' experiences with a company. (What do you like best about your job/company? Why did you join this company?)
- Refer to the "Questions to ask employers" section of the Interviewing for Success, Part I guide for sample questions.
- Prepare your elevator pitch to use as a conversation starter.
- Update and polish your resume. Have it critiqued by a career advisor.
Make a Good First Impression
- Dress professionally.
- Wear something professional that makes you look polished and feel confident.
- How do you define professional attire? Review the five levels of business attire. For most networking events (e.g., career fairs,employer presentations, informational interviews), we suggest following levels 1-3. View the infographic what to wear or not wear for more guidance.
- Bring a portfolio with lots of copies of your resume, your list of target employers/individuals, and the questions you have prepared.
During the Event: Execution