Friday, December 14, 2012

The 5 P’s of professional networking

NETWORKING TIPS: Recapping our Mocktails event and 5
tips for professional networking
Thanks to everyone who helped make our Mocktails event last week a successful one. Thirty-four Peirce students and alumni were in attendance, along with representatives from eight area employers, including Comcast and the City of Philadelphia.

Students, alumni, and employers worked the room and had many opportunities to get to know each other and hone their networking skills. Two students stood out from the rest, and were gifted the most "Superior Networking Golden Tickets." They were Warren Banks, a Business Administration major, and Suevette Williams, a Paralegal Studies major. Each student was awarded a $25 American Express gift card. To see how the rest of the event went, flip through the photo album below.

Students and alumni who attended the event told us it made them feel more prepared for their next networking opportunity, and the advice given to them was very helpful. If you missed the Mocktails event, here are a few tips attendees learned that evening that can help you build your own networking skillset.
  1. Prepare for each networking event. Preparation is key before every professional networking opportunity. Many event organizers will publish a list of people and companies that are slated to attend prior to the occasion -- research each attending company as you would if you were going on a job interview. This way, you can have common ground to talk about during each conversation. It's also important to have business cards made if you don't have any. Sites like VistaPrint often offer free business cards, and customers only have to pay for shipping. Every business card should include your name, email address, and phone number. Social media handles are also great to include, as long as they portray a professional image.
  2. Practice your elevator speech. An elevator speech is a 15 to 30 second speech you prepare to tell someone about yourself in a business manner. In your speech, you want to cover whether you're a student or alumni of the College, your major, your work and internship experience, your career goals, and what you're looking to do. It's important to hit most, if not all, of these points, so boil them down and practice your speech until you can tell someone you've just met about yourself in less than 30 seconds. 
  3. Perfect your approach. If you feel too nervous in a networking situation to walk up to someone you don't know, a tip is to find someone else that looks uncomfortable. It's an easy way to break the ice, and he or she will probably be just as grateful to begin talking to someone. Another option is to find a group of two or three people who are already talking, and casually incorporate yourself into their conversation. A rule of thumb is to find common ground to talk about right away, which could be as simple as the location or event itself.
  4. Project a professional image. Projecting a professional image during a networking event is very important. Be sure to dress professionally, shake hands firmly, and maintain good eye contact to make a good first impression. To maintain that image throughout the night, limit yourself to two cocktails and make sure your cell phone is off and away. You want to be actively engaged with the people you're meeting, not drinking, texting, or tweeting. If you have to keep your phone on for emergencies, keep it on vibrate and in your pocket or purse. 
  5. Pay attention to detail. After you've left a networking event, write notes about each person you met on the back of their business cards to remind yourself of who they were. You can also make a networking log in an Excel spreadsheet to keep their information. It's important to follow up the next day. You don't want a new contact to forget who you were and what you talked about. Send each contact you'd like to have future conversations with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or a short, polite email to remind them who you are and why you look forward to speaking with them soon. You can click back to some of our previous posts for tips on how to use LinkedIn to build your career.
We hope these pointers help you prepare for your next networking event. If you have any questions about professional networking, contact the Career Development Services Center on the sixth floor of College Hall or feel free to ask them in a comment below.