Friday, June 24, 2011

Networking 101: Part 1 / Face-to-Face

A strong foundation for face-to-face networking will include these three skills: eye contact, a firm handshake, and a friendly smile.

Talking to someone face-to-face can sometimes be daunting. To look into someone’s eyes is intimidating for some people, but essential for all communicators. Shaking a person’s hand with a firm grip upon meeting them is proper business etiquette. Whenever you meet anyone new, from your mother’s new coffee friend to your new coworker or boss, give everyone a pleasant, natural smile. Something that says I am enthusiastic to be here, nothing too big or fake.

Each of these skills is a foundational learning base for networking. These skills can sound easy but may be hard to implement. Practicing can help introductions go smoother. Go around to each of your friends one day and practice your handshake, eye contact, and smile in a hypothetical first meet.

Once you feel comfortable with these foundational skills the next step is breaking the ice and engaging in conversation with people. A good place to start is at your school.  There should be career fairs put on by your school regularly throughout the year. A list of the companies that are going to be attending the fair should be available through the career center at your school.

Get that list and do some research on the companies that interest you. With some research into each company, you will be able to create 2-3 talking points to engage the company’s recruiters.[1] For example, Target always had a representative at my school’s career fair. Just browsing Target’s website, and maybe asking your friends, you will find out that Target is a large retail store that specializes in great customer service. Let’s say you are a marketing major, but have no retail experience. Some engaging questions you could ask are:

1.     What is your target market?
a.    How does your marketing program target your guests?[2]
2.     How does retail marketing differ from the mainstream marketing that I am studying in my Intro to marketing class?

 Dust off your resume, put on business slacks, and button up your shirt. Make sure it’s tucked in, for the gentlemen.  Good luck on your first networking experience!

[1] If you did research on a company you should know what they do. (Why I say that is because a big red flag for recruiters is if you ask what does their company do, if you are a candidate that wants to stand above the crowd, know what the company does.)
[2] Try to find out some lingo that the company uses. It should be readily available to find on their website. For example, Target calls their customers guests.

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