Some last-minute advice for a networking newbie?
October 15, 2010 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm part of a committee at a sociology summit, which goes for two days and began today. Tomorrow's networking session, which will conclude the summit, is officially a half-hour long. How can I make the most of it?

This'll be my very first networking event and I'd like to know how to prepare beforehand and carry myself during it.

Some background information: Sociology major, undergraduate senior standing, 23-going-on-24 (this December), first semester at my current university (I'm a transfer student).
posted by DenLaerde to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you trying to get a job? Go to grad school? Do you mean a conference? Are you presenting a paper?

Generally, dress nicely, smile a lot and be polite.

Without knowing your goal, it is hard to say more.
posted by k8t at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2010

If there's alcohol, don't drink too much (if you're not sure how much is too much for you, just don't drink). Have business cards, but don't foist them on people. Ask people about themselves, their own work, their interests, their programs, etc. If there's an afterparty and it seems open to everyone or someone asks you to go, go. That's often where all the real networking happens.
posted by decathecting at 3:43 PM on October 15, 2010

As an undergrad, you can't really go wrong asking older, more experienced bureaucrat/professor/grad student/entrepreneur/consultant/someone whose position you admire how they got where they are. They'll usually be happy to talk about themselves for a bit, you learn something about how life works, and if you're lucky and you've shown some spark they give you an introduction/a job/an invitation to their grad program.

Just don't push it too hard.
posted by col_pogo at 4:17 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't know anyone, go to the bar first and get a drink (alcoholic or not). Start chatting in line to someone - where are they from, what's their subject, etc. If they seem interesting/interested continue the conversation after getting your drink. If not, politely say "nice to meet you" and look around. After a two day conference, chances are you'll see a speaker that impressed you and can go to her/him and say "nice talk" and introduce yourself.

It can be hard to walk away from a conversation that is not interesting to you. But people expect this at networking events, and will often say something like "I need another drink" or "I need to make a call" and excuse themselves, even if they only walk over to another group.

During the conversations, ask questions like col_pogo suggested. Bring up an interesting lecture you attended. Talk about yourself if asked, but not for too long. Expect that some people will talk about work, but others will want to chat about the weather, sports, the location of the conference. Others will hear that you're a student and talk about back in the day.

And, finally, remember that not everyone is completely comfortable at these events, and many go because they "should" - realizing that you aren't the only noobie and you're just practicing will give you some confidence, if you need it.
posted by Sukey Says at 6:00 AM on October 16, 2010

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