Networking for Success
March 29, 2011 4:18 PM   Subscribe

networking filter: My university organizes a lot of networking/recruiting sessions for the upcoming co-op term. Teach me to make the best of these sessions!

I have been and will be attending more of these networking/recruiting sessions offered by my university. I am enrolled in an Accounting and Finance program so recruiters are mainly the Big Four Accounting Firms, major commercial banks, and finance companies (Manulife and Sunlife)
I am new to this world of networking and don't quite understand the protocol. So my questions boil down to this:

1) How do I stand out at these networking sessions with 200+ other students?

2) What should I talk about with the company representatives? What questions should I be asking them?

3) What should be the content of my follow up email to them? What is the appropriate time window for following up?
posted by Danniman to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
See previously?
posted by Nomyte at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks Nomyte. I should have mentioned that I have already looked at the previous similar questions and none of them address my specific questions, specially 1 and 3 (unless I have missed a thread than please direct me to it :) )
posted by Danniman at 5:03 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: I apologize if I am being abrasive or impertinent, but the responses to the question I linked above suggest that there are no answers of the kind you're looking for. I suspect you may be asking these questions because of something you were told by a career counselor at your school, or something you read in a job-search advice book or pamphlet.

Again, I do apologize, and I hope I'm not one of those people who likes to provide negative, unpleasant answers for the sake of sounding tough. But, simply put, I don't think there are good answers to your questions.

There is a myth of job-hunting that's built up by career counseling centers and sites like Monster. This myth romanticizes job hunting etiquette by putting undue emphasis on matters that are really, really trivial, like the quality of your resume paper or whether your socks match your belt.

Then there is the reality of what hiring and looking for jobs involves. Employers go through the process of campus recruiting, networking sessions, and on-site interviews to identify and hire the candidates they think are best for the positions they're trying to fill. There are no magic words or secret handshakes, no hidden tricks, etiquette hacks, or winning gambits. Either you have germane skills and experience and can make it immediately and blazingly obvious that you're a good choice, or you're just one of the 200+ students who are banking on their "soft" and "transferable" skills to distinguish themselves. And if you're in the latter category, everything you can say at best amounts to harmless smalltalk.

So, to answer you directly, how do you stand out at a well-attended employer information session? You approach a recruiter and talk about your internship with their company. Or your internship with a similar company of comparable prominence. Or, barring that, show evidence of your mastery of the concrete, specific area knowledge the position demands. If you don't know what that might be, there is really nothing you can say or do to make yourself look good. What employers want is candidates who can do the job, or who can be quickly trained to do the job. They don't need candidates who can make good smalltalk at social mixers (unless that's part of the position). You can't hide a lack of skills and experience with hand-waving and rhetoric.

If you stand out by being who you are (a highly skilled and desirable candidate), employers will approach you without waiting for you to "follow up." And if you can't distinguish yourself to begin with, does it really matter what your follow-up email says?
posted by Nomyte at 5:42 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

3 - the content of your follow-up email depends on what happens and what you talk about.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 PM on March 29, 2011

Be interesting. 190 of your fellow networkers are going to be boring as all hell, asking the same contrite questions and making the same banal smalltalk that Nomyte is referring to. Don't do that. Be interesting, be memorable. An awesome internship is interesting. A boring internship that you made awesome by going above and beyond the requirements is interesting. Starting a company from your dorm room is interesting. Spending Spring Break building houses in Africa is interesting. Redoing the books of the rowing club and improving their budget 40% is interesting.

And if you aren't interesting, start working on it for next year.
posted by COD at 6:18 PM on March 29, 2011

Nomyte and COD have good points.

I'll add this though, as someone who's been on the other side of the recruiting table a few times:

DON'T show up at the career fair with a stack of identical resumes with generic objective sections and tell the same polished elevator speech to each recruiter.

DO approach the job fair strategically. Research the companies ahead of time. Know who they're hiring. Write a different, targeted resume and cover letter for each company and job you want to apply to. Decide how you're going to pitch yourself (most likely differently) to each company. Make yourself some notes and review them while you're walking to the next booth if you have to. Figure out who you're talking to early in the conversation (is it a professional recruiter or someone who might be your boss or coworker?) and give them a brief spiel that expresses how fervently you want to work for THEM. Your one goal in life, as long as you're at that booth, is to work for that employer.

You've got about 30 seconds to be classified as "interesting", so the first thing out of your mouth should be relevant to the recruiter.
posted by klao at 6:58 PM on March 29, 2011

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