If this industry is all about who you know, then success comes to those who master the art of networking. And it doesn’t have to be as hard or scary as you might think. Try out these easy networking tips below and see for yourself.
Find the Right People
So you’re not a cocktail party-attending shmoozer? No worries. There are plenty of other ways to find valuable contacts. Start with your college alumni office. Oftentimes college alumni offices are more than willing to sit down with alumni for ongoing career advice or to help them track down fellow alums. Target companies you’d love to work for, reach out to fellow alumni, and then ask them for informational interviews. Another great thing about college alumni networks is that there are usually interest-based affinity groups you can tap into (i.e. Barnard Women in Entertainment and Media or the Illinois Media Alumni Club). Keep your college working for you even after you’re through with tuition.
Take ‘Em to Coffee
Whenever you make a contact, offer to take them to coffee. That means, you pay for the drinks. Even if you’re unemployed, you can afford the $3.50 coffee for the important connect you’re about to make. Who knows, that $3.50 might turn into a full-time job!
Always Have a Business Card, Just in Case
There’s nothing more awkward than making an awesome connection and then when they ask you for a way to reach you, you’re left scrambling around for a pen to write on the crumpled dry cleaners receipt you just pulled from your bag. Professional. Instead, wouldn’t it be so nice to say, “Yes, here’s my card. And my website is on their, too, so you can see the work I’ve done.” Business cards are cheap–you can even make them yourself! (affiliate link)–so they’re worth the small investment.
Prepare an Elevator Pitch
An “elevator pitch” is your idea or goal boiled down into a 30-60 second pitch (basically, the time it would take you to explain it to someone in an elevator). When you meet someone, be it a contact you’ve found or a serendipitous encounter, make sure you can pitch yourself or what you want to do clearly and succinctly. Practice your elevator pitch with friends and family to be sure you’re clear about your goals. That way, when you meet your aunt’s best friend’s boyfriend at Thanksgiving, who happens to work at your dream company, you’ll be well-prepared.
Manners, Manners, Manners
When you meet people, be friendly and smile. That goes a long way. If you meet someone briefly, you want to make sure they leave feeling nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings towards you. Because it’s those residual impressions that are going to dictate whether or not they’ll be willing to help you out in the future.
Whenever possible, after meeting someone, follow up. While the initial encounter is important, securing your newfound contact as a longterm career asset will take some nurturing. At the very least, send a thank you note (written or email) to let them know it was a pleasure meeting them.