One thing that I’ve heard so often since embarking on my professional path is that business is sometimes about who you know. That’s what networking is for, and it is, arguably, one of the most necessary and effective tools to being successful in any business-related field. Networking is defined as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” For students, networking comes in many forms, everything from meeting new friends at a social event to attending a career fair can be considered a networking opportunity. From experience, there are three skills to develop to become an effective professional networker: confidence, professionalism, and courage.
In an interaction with a potential employer, exuding confidence in your body language is one of the ways you can indicate to a business professional that you are qualified without saying anything at all. By standing tall, using open-handed gestures, and looking a person in the eyes, you show respect and eagerness to get to know a person. Confidence doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that’s okay, there are plenty of ways beyond the traditional “fake it ‘til you make it” method that can help anyone learn how to network. One of the most effective is LinkedIn, a social networking website that can connect you with potential employers online! This platform is a great place to start learning about professionals in your field, and maybe even chat with them a little bit before you meet in person.
Professionalism is an overarching term that defines the way that you present yourself. Dressing modestly, using appropriate language, and being prepared with any necessary documents are all ways to demonstrate professionalism at a networking event. Your preparedness indicates that you are ready to take on responsibilities and that you know how to conduct yourself in a workplace setting.
Finally, courage. This is likely the most abstract of the three skills for effective networking. Courage means having the willingness to put yourself out there and reach out to professionals in any and all fields that you are interested in! Sending emails, writing letters, and making phone calls are all ways that you can start the networking process with professionals in your field. The key is to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, which can take time and practice. NC State’s AMA offers a wide range of networking events that you can attend to help develop and polish your skills in networking, from casual social events, to formal career fairs. Keep an eye on our upcoming events at ncstateama.org. We look forward to seeing you there!