A Student’s Guide To NetworkingJuly 29, 2016
By Andrew Swisher,
Networking from a business standpoint is a crucial part of being successful in the professional workforce. Networking provides you with a great source of connections, and really opens the door to talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily meet. A common conception among students is the way they perceive networking. Young people see networking as a daunting task, and in many respects it is.
“What do I say to them?”
This is the most frequent question that comes up when my peers are prepping for a networking event. There are two key aspects that you need to realize when you’re speaking with a business professional. The first is to ask open-ended questions, which lead to more dialogue instead of just yes or no answers. Why did you get into the business you are in now? How has this strategy benefited your company? The more questions you ask the better; people love talking about themselves, and studies show that the more someone talks about themselves to you, the more they will like you.
Another key networking strategy is finding commonalities. Commonalities within relational conversation are the key to successful dialogues. Find a topic that you can both be on a level playing field about. For example, let’s say it comes up in the conversation that the person you’re talking to is an avid golfer, and you also enjoy playing golf; expand on this. You will find that it’s a lot easier to talk with someone when you converse about something that you are both passionate and knowledgeable about.
“What if this person doesn’t like me?”
Confidence is essential. Be confident in your own talents, and realize that you have specialized skills that they perhaps don’t have, or would want for their own company. It’s also important to remember that there’s no losing situation in networking. Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back from networking with someone who might intimidate you. Even if you don’t connect well, that’s okay. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Remind yourself that that no one is “too successful” to talk to. People are people — they’re not more special just because of the position they hold or the amount of influence they have in a certain industry. They worked for where they are now, and they started in the same place you did, whether it be in similar or different circumstances. Every tree begins as a sapling.
“Why would this person want to talk to me?”
Think of it this way: If they didn’t want to talk to you, they wouldn’t be networking in the first place. Networking is equally as beneficial for the business professional as it is for you. The person you’re speaking with may be seeking specific things that could benefit or advance their company in some way. Every single person has something different to offer, and you might just be the type of person that this individual would want.
Some studies estimate as high as 80 percent of jobs are found through connections rather than via job-posting websites. The statistics are pretty clear that the power of networking can’t be understated. So make the most of this powerful method to help you reach your career goals.