You've heard it before – "It's all about who you know." When it comes to the marketing communications industry, I don't think this is entirely true. Just "knowing" people can open doors, but what you do with those connections and opportunities is what defines your career. This means true success in the industry is two-fold – it's all about what you do with who you know.
Getting to "know" the right people can seem extremely daunting, but most people genuinely do want to help others succeed. Networking and mentorship provide valuable skills for all involved in relationship building. As a student, it may seem hard to make connections in the industry, but there are ways to meet people in the industry's top positions.
Professional events like conferences, industry mixers, panels and summits provide the perfect opportunity to network with high-level speakers and the room of fellow industry attendees. Make the most out of your next event by following these tips:
1. Don't forget everyone is a valuable connection
When events have an incredible speaker line up, everyone will be lining up to exchange business cards. However, long lines and quick interactions rarely allow for authentic connections to be made. What you should remember is that any connection is a valuable connection. Focusing all of your energy on getting the business card of the top speaker may cause you to miss out on having a valuable conversation with the CEO who could be sitting next to you.
Come to these events to learn from the speakers, maybe ask them about their presentation and network a little, but focus your networking on those around you. Other attendees will have more time to give you their attention. Make sure you are sitting with different people at each session, speaking with those around you and taking part in after session events and optional mixers.
2. Show genuine interest
A lot of people see networking as a way to land a job. While this can be true, flat out asking for one is not appropriate. Make sure you show genuine interest in the person you are interacting with, not just interest in what they can do for you. Here are a few sample questions you can ask if you're stuck with how to strike up a conversation:
- How do you like the company you are working for?
- What projects are you working on right now?
- How did you end up in your current role?
- What is your favorite part of your current role?
- How did you know this field was right for you?
3. Remember to bring your contact information.
Whether it's on a physical business card or digital, have it easily accessible and ready to share. Make sure to include your full name, company, current role, phone number and an email you actually check. These should be updated before each event you attend, no one wants an out of date card, they want to know what you're doing now and why contacting you is valuable.
If you forget your business cards, don't want to pay for printing or ran out of time to update your cards, consider a virtual option. Apps like Haystack let you design your own digital business card and easily share it between phones. Another option is to use LinkedIn's mobile app QR code feature to connect with those you meet in person easily.
4. Don't just hand out your contact to anyone.
Handing someone your business card isn't making a connection, you have to have a meaningful conversation and a reason behind giving them your contact. By just handing your business card to everyone who passes by, you're essentially throwing them away. Only give out your information to those who you actually want to follow up with. Be specific about why you are giving them your card and make plans to follow up.
5. Always follow up
If you have a great connection with someone, don't let it die after the event! Following up with even a simple "nice to meet you" can lead to even more meaningful conversations and potential career and professional development opportunities.
Looking for an event to network with top industry leaders? Join us for Integrate DC on March 31 at the National Education Association in Washington, DC, and Integrate 2020 in Morgantown, WV May 29 – 30.
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