Networking can be difficult, but sometimes it’s even harder when you’re young and not as experienced as other people in the room.
By Jordan Hunter (Editorial Intern, Women 2.0)
Nothing is quite like that first networking experience, when someone starts asking you questions, finds out you’re fresh out of college and casually (but awkwardly) leaves the conversation.
One of the hardest networking experiences I’ve had was at the lunch networking portion of a conference in Silicon Valley.
I was 20 and probably out of my league, but I was the Editor-in-Chief of my college’s branch of a national online magazine and I was a copy editor for the school’s well-credited newspaper. I felt I had enough, and I went to learn.
My friend and I sat down at a table with a couple of women, whom we struck up a pleasant conversation with. They were entrepreneurs who were about to start their own business together. Both being bloggers, my friend and I had dabbled with starting a lifestyle blog together, but when this was mentioned, they proceeded to tell us we would never make it just by writing and that video and YouTube was what kept people interested nowadays.
It was a letdown, but I moved on. After this, it was difficult to approach people because I didn’t feel as confident in telling them who I was and what I wanted to do.
Now 22, I have been to three conferences and numerous community meetups, including major groups like the Online News Association, BlogHer and the College Media Association.
These are things I remember when going to a networking event:
1. Be Prepared
When you show up to an event and you have your business cards ready, you’re dressed to impress and you have your elevator pitch perfected (whether it’s about you or your ideas), you will walk in with a clear mind and nerves should not be a problem. A perfect elevator pitch is around 30 seconds long. If you can describe yourself and your ideas in that time, you will make an impression.
My elevator pitch goes something like this: “Hi, I’m Jordan. I am about to graduate from San Francisco State University with a BA in journalism. I’m currently an editorial intern at Women 2.0, a media brand platform supporting a new generation of leaders in technology and I am looking to immerse myself more in the tech world to see who and what is in it so I can figure out my desired career path. What do you do?”
Keeping your pitch short, sweet and to the point is key. This allows for the other people in the conversation to have questions and ask you about things you said.
2. Be Confident
You shouldn’t be nervous about what others will think of you, your potential product, your business ideas or your career goals. Those that judge will judge, but you have to walk in knowing you believe in what you’re doing. When you’re confident, others will notice and you’ll probably have some great, thought-provoking conversations.
The important thing to remember is that each and every person in that room was once in your shoes. You are not the only fresh college graduate who sought out to network and job hunt. Everyone got to where they are by being ambitious 20-somethings and stepping out of their comfort zones.
3. Have Fun
This is the most important tip. When you’re having fun, it helps the confidence come that much easier, so create your own fun at networking events.
How? Here’s some ideas that work for me:
1. Invite a friend or two to fall back on in those awkward, standing in the middle of the room by yourself moments. Having friends at a networking event is a great way to meet double the people. Try this in the beginning to get your feet wet and eventually, you can take the dive on your own.
2. Make a game out of it or have a goal. See how many business cards you can get by the end of the event, make a quick list of people you want to talk to or talk to everyone wearing a certain color shirt.
3. Make it your goal to learn a few new things about a different company that you find interesting.
Networking events and conferences are meant to join others in your community and allow you to make connections that will hopefully benefit you later on, so enjoy it! Enjoy a glass of wine and have good conversation.