Hello coders, gamers, and other entertainers, I’m the LME and networking can seem like a student’s worst nightmare. It’s just something about being surrounded by successful companies and peers with professional resumes that can both motivate and intimidate. I know the feeling. At my first networking event, I ended up being the only person from my school. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. However, I survived and since then I have been gathering tips and tricks to help better myself and my experience. So today, I am going to show you how to survive your first networking event. And it’s much easier than you think.
Research the Companies
This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this before going to networking events. Some people will just assume they won’t be asked anything about the company. Then they get the question, “So, what about our company interests you” or “What have you heard about our company?” Do you know how awkward that would be if you knew absolutely nothing about the company you were talking to? Or worse, mistook them for another company? Yikes. If you have an event coming up and you know what companies will be there, research what the company does, its locations and its values. Making sure that a company’s values align with yours is key in narrowing down your job/internship search. I personally like companies with a volunteer element because giving back has been a huge part of my life for years. Others may value flexibility or communication, etc. It all depends on you. Long story short, research before you network.
Look Alive, Sunshine
Imagine you’re a recruiter for Twitter, who is looking for students to fill internships. The last thing you would want to see are students who look like they are being forced to be there. Recruiters are taking time out of their schedules to come and look at resumes and talk to students- for hours at a time. Take time to show them your personality, smile, have a real conversation with them. Recruiters are people just like you and I. Don’t treat them any differently just because they are representing a company.
Fashion Should Not Equal Pain
You may be thinking that this tip is out of place, but it’s not. I actually learned this tip from my time on the speech team. Sorry guys, but this tip is catered more towards women. If you’re wearing heels to an event, please bring a pair of flats in your bag. It sounds really weird but think about it. Imagine walking around a networking event for three, four, or five hours in heels. Towards the end of it, you won’t be focusing on what the recruiters are saying. You’ll just be thinking of how much your feet hurt. Trust me, I’ve gone through it. Now I have a medium sized professional bag that I carry with me to events. It fits my shoes, water, granola bars and anything else I may need. K&G, Macy’s and Amazon have plenty for cheap and trust me, you won’t regret it.
Don’t Be a Pretender
Feeling Awkward is Normal
Do you remember that moment at your middle school dance, where hardly anybody actually danced? Instead, people just stood by the walls or food table and awkwardly tried not to make eye-contact. Imagine that, only with business cards, black suits, and no punchbowl. You’re going to feel the same way, wondering where you are supposed to go or who to talk to. My best advice, jump right in. If somebody isn’t having a conversation, go up and start one. I know that seems mortifying for some people, but no one will judge. Trust, everyone is there for the same reason. And if you end up making a LinkedIn connection, that’s icing on the cake.
Don’t Judge a Company by its Branding
I haven’t seen this tip promoted a lot, but I think it’s really important to talk about. If you’re going to a small to medium sized networking event, don’t just go the companies that are mainly promoted as tech companies. Go around to the other companies that are there too. You never know what companies, no matter what field they are in, are looking for software interns or engineers. I recently had this exact thing happen to me at a networking event. I ended up talking to a medical company and an insurance agency about software engineering internships. If I had just solely focused on the tech-centered companies, I would’ve missed a great opportunity. Even if they are not looking for someone in your field, talking to them will still give you insight into the real world.
There’ll Always Be Another One
The waiting game after a networking event can seem endless. You balance resisting the urge to constantly check your email with going over all the things you could have said. It can be nerve-wracking for anybody. However, you have to keep this one thought in mind. This won’t be the last event. There are plenty of networking events that happen every day whether in person or online. Even if you didn’t get an offer, you still got insight into your field and got your name out there. And that, my friend, is the point of all of this. Getting your foot in the door If you happen to trip on the way in, no worries. It happens to the best of us.
By following these tips, you should be able to survive your first networking event with no problem. Just remember to breathe, make eye contact, and visit the food table. I’m not kidding, that last one is an actual rule I was told. Anyways, until next time keep calm and code on.