So you’ve done the classroom thing, learned all the theories, passed all your exams and have that exquisitely framed piece of paper hanging on your wall.
These days, it seems networking is the key to landing your first agency job. Being a university grad with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, I can tell you first hand, although it’s nice to have that diploma, it’s my ability to communicate (or schmooze, as they say) and get in front of people that got me to where I am today.
But before you start networking, take the time to do your research. Who do you plan to network with? Where do these people work? There’s nothing worse than meeting someone for the first time, only to have that “deer caught in the headlights” look on your face when you’re asked if you’ve heard of their company.
One of our up-and-coming agency interns, Kelsey, echoes the sentiment. “Research, research, research,” she says. “I studied the agency, their clients and campaigns, and the individual interviewing me — or who I wanted to meet. I got a sense of who they were, in terms of their interests and background, and if the agency’s values aligned with mine.”
First impressions are always important when you’re networking with industry people and professionals. So extend your hand with a smile and be confident. With so many people mingling at these networking gatherings, you definitely want to make an impression that lasts.
So how do you make that great first impression?
Here’s more pointers from some of our successful interns:
Jenny, our copywriting intern, says “Networking can be scary, but the person you’re meeting probably isn’t. You might have sat next to them on the bus and not even have known. Just smile, give a firm handshake, and ask questions so they do the talking.”
Another one of our interns, Tanis, suggests, “Ask industry professionals how they started out in their career. This could be very insightful and a great conversation starter. Don’t underestimate the power of a face-to-face conversation.”
If you feel shy, why not practice your networking skills with friends at first? Ask for constructive criticism. The more you practice, the easier it’ll get, so when you do make your first introduction to a prospective contact, it’ll be second nature. Some swear by practicing in front of a mirror. It’s great for personally critiquing yourself but remember to throw in some real life human interaction in your “run-throughs”.
When the day finally comes and you’re ready to do some serious networking, make every effort to meet as many people as you can at your networking event. With your newfound confidence and people skills, it can be easy to get caught up speaking to just one person. So make sure to limit your interaction to about 10 minutes — just enough time to briefly engage and then exchange your contact information. Then move on. The goal is to get yourself in front of as many people as possible. Then follow up a day later to set up a one on one appointment where you can really take the time to shine. Offer to take your contact out for a coffee (or tea) outside of the office to ensure you get their undivided attention. Who can say no to free coffee?
When it comes right down to it, it’s not only what you know, but who you know.
Why not put your expert networking skills to great use at Acart Communications? We’re always on the lookout for great communicators.
Feature image via University of the Fraser Valley