Networking events can be a great way for you to meet potential employers looking for internship help. Apart from giving the chance for employers to meet prospective employees on a personal level, they give you an opportunity to meet potential employers outside of the work environment. If handled properly, you could very well be on your way to a potential internship!
Do Your Homework First
Before you attend the event, you must take care of some of the logistics. Which companies will be attending? Is this a formal suit-and-tie event, or is it an informal meet-and-greet? Will there be food? As with all career events, regardless if it’s a career fair or networking event, you must do all of your research. Take a lazy afternoon to peruse the company website of each person attending. Then dive deeper into the ones you’re interested in.
Ingest anything and everything you might want to bring up in conversation. Find out who from the company will be attending the event and what position they hold so you know who to ask about internship opportunities. You shouldn’t be asking if you know nothing about their business!
Practice Your Pitch
After you’ve prepped your research, devise an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short summary of who you are, your interest in the company, and most importantly, what makes you stand out. This is how you’ll present yourself when you’re making conversation with each of the employers. Elevator pitches should last thirty-seconds to a minute, but the shorter the better, so you shouldn’t be spitting out every goal and piece of experience from your resumé.
Instead, give the highlights of your background, and if your pitch goes well, chances are things will fall into place and the employer will gain interest and then draw out the details themselves. That is when your pitch turns into a full-blown conversation.
Mind Your Manners
If the networking event is a dinner (or even happy hour), food can either make the affair a casual yet professional experience or into an unpleasant ordeal. If it is an informal event, keep your composure and don’t drink yourself into a frenzy. Remind yourself that this is in fact an opportunity to secure an internship. However, if it is a formal dinner, manners and chivalry are just as important as your pitch. You must know which fork to use, [for gentlemen] when to stand up, where to sit, and how to properly excuse yourself, among others.
Mixing etiquette and networking can be very tricky, and somewhat conniving, though. For example, you know how you’re not supposed to salt your meal before actually eating it? Well in the eyes of a potential employer, this could mean [the employee] takes action without thinking it through. Big mistake. You want to avoid blunders such as this by brushing up on your etiquette skills to ease the stress of your main goal: to obtain that internship!
You’ve done your research, dusted your best suit, prepared your pitch, brushed up on your protocol, and now comes the dirty work. At the actual networking event, have multiple copies of your resumé (on resumé paper!) and business cards ready. Look for your employers and have at it; you’ve practiced your pitch and now all you have to do is sell yourself. Stay away from touchy subjects such as politics and religion and stick with the company itself, all while maintaining a strict professional demeanor
At the end of the event, e-mail all of the people whom you’d like to continue a relationship with, thanking them for a great time but focusing on your interest in future student employment. Bring up topics that you discussed just in case they might have forgotten you among other enthusiastic students.
Stick to Your Gameplan
And just to recap, keep these 5 tips in mind as your gameplan for any face to face networking event:
1. Remember names! Nothing is more embarrassing than addressing the wrong person in a follow-up thank you e-mail.
2. Create a pitch for each employer. While it may seem tedious, an individually tailored pitch could be an advantage that separates you from other students. After all, your “Objective” on your resumé should be different for each position, why not your pitch?
3. Be genuine. Your passions and credentials should be sincere and authentic and should by all means match your resumé!
4. Don’t rely on networking with friends. While it decreases the stress, independence shines through if you’re alone. If you do happen to attend with friends, make sure you articulate your goals-otherwise your friend might end up with your internship!
5. Lastly, always ask questions. Never ever go into a networking event (and interview, for that matter) without producing a list of questions. It shows interest in the company.
Good luck and happy networking!