Career networking night is an exciting event arranged by the university and the companies who want to search for potential job applicants (such as students) in the university. Around 27 companies attended the said event including American Family Insurance, American Greetings, Animal Health International, Brocade, Colorado Casualty Insurance, Deloitte, Enterprise Holdings, John Elway Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, Kraft Foods, McDonalds and WalGreens. The event was held at the university from 5:30 pm to 8 p.m. where free foods and drinks were provided. The university requires all students, juniors and seniors, regardless of attendance and graduation date. Before the event, the university has provided some advices and tips in order to improve our networking skills to become more prepared when meeting our potential employers. This paper will discuss those advices and tips and this will then be followed by in-depth understanding of networking and its importance to our future. Frequently asked questions about the event will also be explained.
Networking and Its Significance to Students and Employers
In order to feel more excited, motivated and prepared for the said event, it would be important to understand what is networking, its nature, complexity as well as its significance to our future endeavors. Networking, as stated in the video, in general sense simply involves communicating and establishing relationships with people we know and people who may not know. Career networking on the other hand, mainly focuses on creating a network in order to achieve our goals in our career. Networking involves creating a network of friendly persons who communicates and supports each other. This is considered as an effective strategy because many jobs are not advertised and this would help each student to open a hidden job market. In fact, the video stated that majority of jobs were acquired from networks or referrals and not from direct hiring or advertisements. In other words, it would be important to create friendly connection with other people who can help you about job offerings such as to the person who does the hiring. Therefore, it can be said that there is some truth in this quote, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” (Networking; Career Networking; Career Networking Night).
In addition, this strategy also have other advantages such as creating community of individuals who help each other and gives information and emotional support that is useful for each member of the network. Students will learn new things about their courses such as new processes, tools, leaders, products, services and training programs. They will also discover solutions to the problems in the workplace case studies assigned by their professors. Furthermore, one person within a network could provide a vital piece of information. Career networking can be planned and is considered as continuous effort. Meaning, as long as you have career goals that you want to achieve, you should continue pursuing networking efforts. This involves developing goals, creating strategies to achieve them, taking action, assessing whether such plan is working and implement changes if needed. Even if you leave your career since you are planning to establish a business, networking is something that you should do throughout the rest of your lives (Networking).
On the other hand, not all people are born with networking skills since this needs people to become mentally prepared and it also requires practice to begin building professional image and network. Attitudes guide behaviors; therefore, anyone who wants to build a network should believe to themselves that they have something to show to their potential employers. One networking skill that people should learn is how to create an effective network. One tip is plan a network. This first step is how to create networks formal and informal networks. Formal networks involve clubs, and regular meetings. This includes professional organizations such as Lion’s Club or alumni associations. Informal network consists of friends that we meet during parties, friends from middle school and senior high, people we meet when we engage in our hobbies and individuals from synagogue, church and mosques. An effective network should have both kinds and has a healthy combination of business and social conditions (Networking; Career Networking). Apart from attending this career networking event as a source of information, students may also seek information and support from their previous educational institutions and U.S. employment services (Networking; Career Networking; Career Networking Night).
This will then be followed brainstorming contact lists. Doing so involves remembering anyone possible who we can contact. This is the reason why we need to get business card from companies who will attend the event and we also need to give our business cards to potential employers of the said event. In addition to employers, we can also include our family and friends to our contact list, specifically those who we know their career background and interest that could help us in our career goals.
Even professors and faculty members can also serve as an important part of our networks. Meaning even though the networking event focuses on communicating with employers, we should also recognize the presence of the faculty members of the said event such as having a short chat with them during the event or at least say hi or good evening to them. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can also serve as a great source of networks. However, when giving Facebook account, ensure that the account that you give is for business or networking and not the personal FB account. It is important to write down each of those contacts about their background, position, interests and values to determine whether they could serve as a help in the future (Networking; Career Networking; Career Networking Night).
The second step is becoming prepared. Similar to interview, students should prepare when approaching their potential contacts. The university has presented the companies who will attend the said event which means that students should conduct research about each of those companies such as their background and the nature of their business. It is also important to establish objectives of meeting those potential employers and create questions for potentials which are based on those objectives. First, when preparing for communicating with potential employers, it is important to create an introduction. One good example is “Nice to meet you, my name is Lea. This May, I will be graduating with a degree in marketing and I would be interested in knowing more about opportunities your company might have that suits my interests and chosen field” (Networking; Career Networking; Career Networking Night).
Next one is reaching out to contact. One way of doing so is to ask the contact about themselves as well as their experiences. Majority of people prefer talking about themselves and we can use that to start the conversation and general questions will then be asked. Similarly, they will also ask about our backgrounds and interests. There are two kinds of networking based on the type of communications. The first one is In-person networking and second one is Virtual networking. The career networking night is a good example of in-person networking. This requires initiative to talk to others, introducing themselves and sharing information that might uncover a shared connection between the two parties. If asked about the support needed, it is important be specific such as kind of entry level positions preferred and more information regarding career in marketing as well as expectations and qualifications of a specific position (Networking; Career Networking; Career Networking Night). This part of requires giving and acquiring business cards from both parties. Undivided attention is also necessary when communicating with them. Student should also share what they knew and what they learned from their classes, internships, professional associations and previous work experience (if they have) that might be interesting for your contact. Once a communication started to become dull or uninteresting or you want to talk to other employers, move on by excusing yourself stating “Excuse me, I see someone I need to greet. It was very nice to meet you” (Career Networking).
Aside from establishing new contacts, it is also important to work your network through staying connected with your contact. Do not simply communicate with them for job hunting purposes, but sharing good news is also appreciated such as short emails and asking them how they are doing. When asking for help, make it easy to your contacts such as asking them specific questions such as “Do you know anyone working in Apple?” May I user your name when introducing myself to them?” and as much a possible, prevent asking general demands. Lastly, thank you notes and constant communications are also significant. Inform your contact about how nice meeting them and how grateful you are on a specific advice they have given to you. Provide assistance if they need support from you (Career Networking).
Networking is also important to employers, which is the reason why they like attending career networking nights because the more they have connections the more chances of getting more qualified candidates for the job position they would offer in the future. In fact, they also use other methods of networking such as social networking sites in order to reach more potential job applicants such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (Heathfield).
Professional Business Attire
Another area that each student should understand in career networking night is how we should dress for the event. The university requires all attended to wear professional attire. There are specific guidelines that men and women must follow when wearing such type of clothing. For men, this may mean wearing matched suits since this is the safest and best choice. Ties should be made of silk. Leather shoes should be worn and no earrings. Watches are accepted as jewelry or as an accessory.
For women, they may wear little black/gray dress, whether sleeveless or with sleeves but the skirt of the dress should be on the knee. Alternatively, women may also wear black/grey pants paired with a white polo-blouse with a black/grey blazer. Heels should not be too high since this would make women feel uncomfortable. Professional Business attire is not the same as business casual because the former only accepts colors such as dark/navy blue, gray, white and black while the latter uses colors in addition to the colors use for professional business attire. Fabrics accepted include wool, wool blends, or other good quality natural and synthetic fibers and avoid using lower quality acetate / rayon blends (Interview appearance and attire). Students are encouraged to invest in business attires with high quality fabrics since they tend to last for years and business attire, particularly the professional kind, is not vulnerable to the changes in fashion trends. Nevertheless, they are not encouraged to buy something that only CEO or executive managers can afford. One to two sets of quality professional business attire suffice for this networking night as well as in job search. Students can change their blouse or ties, and accessories. Furthermore, professional business attire should be clean, carefully ironed and well-pressed and check for loose threads, tags, etc. High slit skirts are deemed inappropriate but calf length skirts with knee-length slits are acceptable as long as it only facilitates walking (Interview appearance and attire).
Food served in corporate events is not oftentimes a full meal but most of the time it may consists of finger foods to encourage more communications during the event instead of simply focusing on food. Nevertheless, if the attendees felt quite hungry they should provide some time eating with their colleagues rather than with their potential employers. It is unacceptable to talk when your mouth is full, therefore, attendees should eat first before communicating with their potential employers.
Business Etiquette Handshakes
Handshakes also serves as an important aspect of the career networking night since it is a significant part of communicating with potential employers. Handshakes do not simply involve greeting since it also says something about your personal and confidence towards you. It serves as an important tool in creating the first impression. Even though art of handshaking tends to differ in various cultures, business etiquette in handshaking specifically in this country has universal rules (Wolfe).
The first one is that in handshaking, introducing yourself should serve as a part of introduction but not replacement for your voice. Handshaking without oral introduction seems to represent aggressiveness and/or nervousness. A business handshake should be short, pumping hands only two to three times. Recognize that a handshake needs not to be a lengthy engagement but a short greeting. Holding their hands for a longer period can make them feel awkward. Shaking hands from your elbow is based on the idea that handshaking should not be jolting but the main purpose is to simply connect with your potential employers. Avoid fish hand, forceful or limp grip as much as possible. Lady fingers are also unacceptable in business events since we are not attending the Southern Cotillion or other social events. Business events consider all people equal meaning handshaking should also be manly and not a lady. If someone extends their entire hand, then you should extend your entire hand as well (Wolfe).
While the quote “two is better than one” applies in general settings, the contrary applies to business settings, especially in handshaking. Avoid using two hands since one hand (the right one) is only needed for the handshake. Handshake using two hands is a politician’s shake. After shaking hands with people with sweaty hands, do not wipe them immediately. Since this could result to further embarrassment to them. Clean your hands discretely and wash them later in the lavatory. Handshake should be ended in two to three pumps or three to four seconds and try to cover mistakes such as changing focus through providing a quick compliment or asking some questions (Wolfe).