By Ana Mancia and Suhitha Kosuri
Throughout your professional life, you will consistently find yourself thrown into these strange conglomerations of people, known as “networking events”. Some people thrive off of these occasions, and can speak to strangers with ease. They’ve mastered the art of networking and it is second nature to them. They know their elevator pitch by heart and can impress any recruiter with their charisma, knowledge and memorable life story.
And then, there’s the rest of us! If you are still struggling to understand the concept of networking, you are certainly not alone. If you have no idea how to approach a recruiter without being awkward, fear not. There are plenty of us who still blankly walk up to a recruiting table, say hello, and then ask, “So uhhh...what’s Accenture do?” We’ve all been there.
For this article, we spoke to the experts themselves and asked for their insight regarding how to network properly. Below are their secrets for success!
“You have to be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, because they can tell if you’re acting a certain way. It’s also important to already have ideas and questions when you go speak to a recruiter. It makes you look much more prepared. If I truly don’t have questions for them, then I probably will not approach them. I want to avoid coming off as uninterested, since it’s usually pretty obvious to them. Have a good sense of what you’d like to talk about with the person, and always be polite. Also, remember to ask for their email or business card, and then follow up with the person afterward! Build a relationship!”
-Trinh Duong, Berkeley Women In Business VP of Technology
“It’s all about who you know. I got my internship because of the people I met at networking events, and I’m a firm believer in having people advocate for you. It’s also important to stand out and differentiate yourself from other applicants, so make that extra effort to meet these people and follow up with them. That is really how you individualize yourself as a candidate. Show initiative and curiosity regarding the specifics of the job. Ask them about their lifestyles. It’s good to have a list of questions in your head. Find similarities as you talk, and see what you have in common with the person. Always remember to be natural!”
-Winnie Xin, Berkeley Women In Business VP of Corporate Relations
“Always come to networking events with a plan. What is your goal? Prepare to achieve that goal, and execute it. You want to be memorable as a candidate, so find your unique selling point. What about you is different and can be valuable to them? Take notes while they are talking, and always follow up within 24 hours if possible. Furthermore, never stay in one part of the room; make sure you are moving around and if you see an empty table...go for it! You’ll notice that everyone goes to big names, but never downplay a smaller company. It equates to less competition, and statistically means that you have a better chance of landing an offer. Maintain contact periodically with the recruiters. It’s important to continuously connect with them, so they truly remember you. Networking gets easier with time, so do it whenever you can!”
-Hezekiah Burton, Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association
“Take advantage of any on-campus events. If you’re interested in a company, talk to the representatives and ask for contact information. It’s also important to target what you’re interested in, so be sure to also speak with people you know personally who have worked in that industry. Another thing I use quite often is LinkedIn; I look through my contacts and see if I have any connections to people at that company. If I do, I usually contact them via LinkedIn and get as much information as possible from the person. It’s a very helpful way to reach out to people!”
-Natasha Khimji, Berkeley Women In Business VP of Corporate Relations
“Often times when you arrive at networking events, there are already several small groups in discussion. But, don’t be scared to go up and ask if you can join a conversation because chances are that they won't turn you down. To keep a conversation alive and prevent any awkward pauses, you can try and almost “mimic” the person you are talking to. For example, if the person you are talking to is very introverted or subdued, try not to be overly enthusiastic. On the other hand, if the person you are talking to is extremely enthusiastic and talkative, try to match that same level of energy. This will balance the dynamics. If the conversation starts to get bland, don’t feel pressurized to only talk about career related topics. Ask the person where they are from, what their interests are, or bring up a current event.”
-Cecilia Zhou, Berkeley Women in Business President