By Siyu Wu
You’ve likely heard the old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Though what you know still plays a significant role in landing your ideal job or internship, it is undeniable that getting to know the people at a firm can be a big help - not only for getting the job, but also for learning about the company culture and industry through an insider’s perspective. Networking can help you get that insider’s perspective.
Some people may appear to be natural networkers, easily moving among conversations and creating rapport with others. But there are many others, like myself, who find networking a bit daunting or challenging. Here are some top tips to help you get more from networking at the next information session.
Do your homework
Treat a networking session like a class discussion - you can’t go in blind with no knowledge on the discussion topic. Before a networking event, research a bit about the company structure, history, and recent deals or accomplishments. This gives you some fodder for starting a conversation and also helps you appear more prepared and knowledgeable.
Quality over quantity
It may be tempting to speak with as many professionals as you can in order to get your name out there, but this can actually be counterproductive. Have two or three meaningful conversations is much better than meeting six or seven people for only a few moments.
Not only are people more likely to remember you when you have a more substantive conversation, but you are also able to learn more about the firm.
Be respectful of others’ time
While you don’t want to move from group to group too frequently during an event, you also don’t want to spend the entire time speaking with only one individual. This is not only to ensure that you are respecting the time of those attending the event, but also so you can learn about different perspectives and experiences and be better prepared to determine in which part of the company you are more interested.
Networking is not a class, so there is no need to take notes on everything someone says. However, jotting down a quick note or two during and after a networking session can help solidify what you learned for future instances.
Something I like to do is to write down a few notes on every business card I get, so that I can remind myself of the conversation I had with that individual. This lets me personalize my email messages to them should I need to contact them in the future.
Networking doesn’t end when the session ends
As much as you may want to put your feet up when you come home from a successful networking session, it is important to follow up with those you met at the event. Send a quick thank you email within 24 hours - mention something about your discussion to jog their memory, thank them for their time, and ask to keep in touch should you have further questions.
If you happen to be near their firm in the future, send an email and ask to meet with coffee. Not every person will reply to your email, but you never know if someone you follow up with will eventually become your mentor or supervisor!
Networking can be really challenging and tiring, but hopefully with these tips, you’ll feel more prepared and energized for your next networking event. But even with this preparation, remember to present your most genuine self - firms and professionals want to get to know the real you, as that is what differentiates you from other candidates who have prepared equally well.
Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.