March 26, 2014
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Whether you’re traveling to a new city alone or with a school organization for a networking trip, interacting with professionals can always be intimidating for a college student on the job hunt.
Over the course of my professional experience, I’ve discovered how essential it is to plan for the worst before diving head first into the “working world.” That way, you’ll be completely prepared and the right mindset to give your best first impression. Here are the seven tips I’ve taken away for professional networking.
Research the Company Before Visiting
This is crucial before even setting up the trip. For starters, it’d be beneficial to research your PR point of contact, company history, brand standards and social media platforms before you do anything else. You’ll sound knowledgeable while interacting with the professionals at the company online and in person using solid talking points from your research.
Bring Your Resume/Business Cards
Bring several copies of your most updated resume to give to every professional you meet. Business cards are also great if you have them too. Being able to showcase your professional experience is important, especially when time is precious on a company tour.
Look The Professional Part
No sweats, no gym shoes and for goodness sake do not cake on the make-up. This is the time you look your sharpest. Shine your shoes, iron those dress pants and don’t forget to put on deodorant before walking through the front doors of the company you’re visiting. When in doubt, a blazer and dress pants, or black leggings are my go-to professional attire. I never wear heels, unless they are low or on a tall boot, but even then I bring flats in my bag, just in case blisters appear.
Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst
I always bring a purse with me on professional occasions carrying items for the most inopportune moments when you have coffee breath, your phone is on 2% battery, etc. These key items are:
- Altoid mints or gum
- Hand wash
- Portable phone charger
- Band aids
- Dental floss
Tweet At The Company Before Visiting
True story: tweeting at MediaSource, a PR agency named 2013’s Best Health Care PR/Marketing Agency by communications industry powerhouse Ragan Communications, before touring their office in Columbus, Ohio with PRSSA earned me my very own MediaSource coffee mug and “swag bag”. It was really exciting being recognized in front of the whole group tour for using their hashtag #BobcatsBrandJournalized14 before visiting. It just goes to show you what doing your research can achieve: recognition before a face-to-face introduction.
Don’t Be Late
Arrive two hours early if you have to, butjust make sure you are not late. Just don’t do it. Period. (Rule of thumb is 5 minutes early is on time.)
Through email or LinkedIn, following up with a personal message is the perfect way to show your appreciation for their time and especially shows initiative for keeping the conversation going.Hand written thank you notes are an excellent personal touch too. Don’t stop there though. Keep the relationship consistent with an email every few weeks with a possible blog link you found interesting or info-graphic worth checking out.
Stephanie Gort is a senior studying Strategic Communications. You can follow her on Twitter at @StephGort.