A Girls Guide to Navigating the Real World: Networking 101
As a past mentee, I recall the excitement and joy I felt after realizing that the first GEM workshop of my cohort year was at LinkedIn. The experience was almost surreal, to say the least. That important session was where I met my amazing mentor Andrea for the very first time, where I conversed with like-minded girls who shared the same interests and dreams as I did, and where I met various women who worked in different career fields.
Networking opened doors to several opportunities that helped enhance my professional and personal career without even realizing it. During my senior year of high school, I was often hesitant to “dive into” the ropes of networking. I did not know where to begin and how to reach out to broaden my network further. After participating in the GEM program, I created a list of tips and tricks to help myself both step into the world of networking, while effectively marketing myself for future internships and events that may come my way.
Below are a few of the strategies I learned.
Determine your Goals
I’ve always found that clearly thinking through your goals and what you would like to take away from a networking event or workshop is an important first step. Start by formulating a plan in a small notebook or sticky note, then try to formulate a goal based on the type of event you’re in. In your plan, figure out who you would specifically like to speak to (and why) and what you would like to discuss with them.
This will help to keep the conversation flowing. And remember: don’t be nervous, you’re still getting the hang of it!
I found networking very overwhelming at first. Sometimes I start off by introducing myself and getting to know the person more through small talk. Furthermore, you’re able to build up a foundation in which you can converse freely. Try to make a goal to connect with at least one or two professionals and obtain their contact information. Take your time, and get to know them, don’t rush! I am introverted by nature and trust me, you might feel anxious and nervous at first, but time and practice will help you feel more comfortable in situations like these!
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
Networking can sometimes be exhausting, but worth it in the end! Remember to stay connected with your professional connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them if you have any questions with regards to career development, post-secondary, or if you want to meet them for a coffee to discuss a topic in further detail. Another good strategy would be to reach out to your mentor and the GEM community. They are a strong network of women that have numerous connections, talents and experiences, and are always willing to help out.
The way you present yourself in a networking scenario is crucial, especially if it’s at a networking event. Dress based on both the type of event that you’re planning to attend as well as what brings out your personality. Pick an outfit that is both comfortable and professional. During the event, ensure you shake the individual’s hands, introduce yourself, and show gratitude towards them for taking the time to speak with you.
Last but not least, the best advice that I can give is to be yourself. Try your best and make the most out of every event you attend!