Deborah Shane had a great post about networking on careerealism.com today: “8 Steps to Build Relationships After A Networking Event“.
I have a colleague who probably follows those 8 steps more closely than anyone else I know–she takes notes, she follows up, she reflects on her experience and what she learned, she is the queen of social media.
But the last time I saw her at a professional conference she was feeling bad because she was unable to make time apart from the conference to meet everyone who invited her for coffee, lunch, a drink, etc.
I asked her how many of those people had attended her presentation at the conference.
One of them had.
Those people can’t even get to step one of the “8 Steps to Build Relationships After A Networking Event” because all 8 steps are about following up after participating in the networking event. And if you make the choice to treat it like a vacation or a trade show, you can’t make people feel bad for being unavailable because they are busy actually participating in the conference.
Networking events have a large social element and sometimes a large trade show element, but you have to participate in the core reason for the event. This means attending the sessions in the case of a professional conference.
But what does it mean for you if you are a student?
Let’s take 8 steps to make class into a networking event.
Some of this is obvious:
- attend class
- be polite by showing up on time and following any “rules” the professor has
But some of it is less obvious. And this is where the great opportunities to turn class into a networking event lie:
- network with other students and the professor–you might want a letter of recommendation and to get a good one, you should be a genuine stand out student
- if it’s a language course, participation means using that target language. Be a leader by always using the target language during class.
- participate as if you want to be there for the core reason (“go to the sessions”), not as if you just want to “check the box” to get maximum credit for being present.
- actually network by moving around and interacting with as many people as possible. Students tend to self-segregate and always interact with other people from their same sports team, their same frat or sorority, their same major, the people they already know. You have those connections! Make new ones. You’ll want them and maybe even need them someday. The real stand out students mingle by sitting next to and interacting with different peers–or sit up front and in so doing invite others to do the same.
- getting distracted by your phone, laptop, Facebook does not go unnoticed. When you are virtually networking with people who are not present, you isolate yourself from the real people around you, losing the opportunity to network in real time. Almost everyone is distracted by technology now and it does require effort to not check your phone, which inevitably leads to interacting with far-away people during face-to-face gatherings with close-by people. But try to be aware of it and be polite if you have to excuse yourself to take an important call or follow-up on something that is related to the real-life activity at hand.
Bottom line: You can’t build relationships after a networking event if you don’t participate in the event!