When should I call?

Vanessa Alva, Staff Writer

There is so much pressure for college students to get internships and have job options after graduation. Career fairs and networking events are great ways to meet people in your career field that are specifically looking for college students. It’s hard to be noticed when there are a lot of other students there who are on the same mission as you. Here are some tips on what to do when you’re trying to network with professionals.


  1. Go to the networking events prepared.

Dress professionally, because appearance does matter. It does not have to be something over the top. Business casual is the best way to dress for these types of events. Have a resume and business cards ready. Although we are still college students, it is important for potential employers to see your level of professionalism and what kind of experience you have.


  1. If possible, arrive early to the event.

It’s easier to meet people if you arrive a little early. One of the hardest things to do when networking is waiting to talk to someone you are interested in if they are already in a conversation. Arriving early would give you a better chance of talking to someone you are interested in.

  1. Don’t wait for someone to approach you.

If it’s a large networking event, it’s easy to go unnoticed if you are just standing in a corner waiting for someone to talk to you. Go up to someone and introduce yourself. Tell them your name, your major and your year. Start by asking simple questions like: “What brings you to this event?”, “What are you hoping to get out of this networking event?” or “What are you most excited about?”


  1. Ask followup questions.

Listen intently to their responses allows for you to ask follow-up questions. Some good follow-up questions are: “How did you start working in that direction?” or “What is a short description of what you do?” If they have a similar career path, you should ask for advice on how to get to where they are.


  1. Seem welcoming.

Smiling and nodding makes others feel more comfortable talking to you. Part of being welcoming is not hijacking a conversation. If they ask questions about you, answer them. However, it is better to ask the other person about themselves. People love talking about themselves.


  1. Do not be afraid to brag.

Being humble is admirable. However, it is not appropriate in this situation. Potential employers are at networking events searching for talented individuals, so it is completely acceptable to let them know about your experience.


  1. Keep it short.

Networking events are sort of like speed dating. Talk to someone long enough to make a lasting impression but short enough for both of you to meet other people. People also stop listening after some time so the maximum you should spend with one person should be ten minutes. If the conversation seems to die off, part ways. Give them your business card and ask what is the best way to keep in touch with them. They might give you their phone number, email or LinkedIn information.


  1. Follow up with them.

Mercer’s Career Services Center recently hosted a networking and career fair. Lacey Cumming, a campus recruiter from AthenaHealth, gave a few tips there on how to follow up: “If you meet someone at a career fair or networking event and they give you their card, I think it is always great to follow up the next day by expressing your interest. If there is a specific position you are interested in, go ahead and let them know.” Start your follow-up by bringing up something from your conversation. They probably met a lot of people and might be bad with names. This allows them to remember who you are and it makes your introduction less awkward. Even if you are not looking for an immediate job, following up in this time frame allows for them to remember you so you can reach out to them later and maintain constant contact.


Regardless of your major, GPA, experience and talents, networking is fundamental for every industry. These connections will be helpful eventually, and it is important to maintain contact with people after networking events.