As a business student, networking is part of the culture. Like many of my fellow students, I’m not entirely comfortable spending hours talking about myself to strangers during networking events. To me, networking events are awkward situations where industry professionals, some of whom are equally uncomfortable, listen and share with students, some of whom have no idea what they are doing. Think of speed dating, but going in with the knowledge that everybody is putting on a show because, well, they are being paid to be there. No matter how genuine a company representative seems to be, there is no way that he/she is accurately portraying a job at their firm. Actually, most of the time you talk about irrelevant things anyways.
Upon reaching the later years of my education, I realized that my networking skills were sub par. Having entered the program through non-traditional methods, I missed the early years where everyone told you to network. Over the last two years, I have attended many networking events and I am at the point where I am reasonably comfortable with talking about certain topics with random people. I am told that I have to sell myself better, mainly to exaggerate about certain things I do well. Here are my observations as an above average networker. I mean as an excellent networker.
The 6 people you will meet/see at a networking event:
Usually feeling guilty, these people are here because they should be networking more but are uncomfortable with the situation. They really just need to dive in and realize that everyone else is probably feeling the same. Normally these people stand in the corner or with one of their friends, trying to just get past the next hour.
“I pulled an all-nighter for this event” guy
There are always students who are super prepared, armed with reasonable and smart questions. They always have their research completed and organized before every event. I envy some of these people as they tend to be the ones who have the most meaningful conversations. Occasionally, you run across the people who prepare way too much and ask about obscure company happenings that hardly anybody knows about.
“I’m there for the food” guy
These people network very well with the caterers and the bartenders. You will notice that they constantly have a plate, glass, or both in their hands. A successful event is where they leave with a decent meal and maybe shake hands with a few familiar faces that are also at the food table.
Could be a student
Sometimes you meet a person who you can’t tell is working or student. They have a young face and are usually new to networking as well. Sometimes you can’t even tell if they are a student or not even after engaging them in conversation.
I envy these people because they thrive in situations where they can just talk about random topics and present themselves in a positive light. They are vibrant, engaging and professional at the same time and seem to be born to talk to complete strangers. Sometimes these people aren’t the best in the classroom but they thrive in situations where they can make personal connections.
The Rude One
A person who is very self-centered and only networks for the end goal of getting a job and with no regard on how many people he or she has to pass to get that job. They can come off as aggressive and a little arrogant because they always try to steer the conversation to one of their experiences or accomplishments. We all get that we are here to network, so there is no point in being an ass about it.