By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor
Networking is both an art and a science. In the business world, college students hear that it’s everything, just as important as internships and experience. But how can you effectively network? The best networking takes place when you don’t know the title or influence of those you are networking with, although if you did a little research beforehand, it doesn’t hurt your chances either. Most people don’t like networking because they don’t feel safe in environments where you’re forced to meet new people – especially those who may serve in roles of greater influence and power. But networking should be a fun and rewarding approach to advancement. How, you might ask? By keeping an open mind and preparing with these simple steps!

Peer Learning While in a networking environment, you can learn a lot from others around you. The power of observation can go a long way. Pretend that you’re conducting a social experiment, the networking event as a focus group. Be aware of what works best for you and what doesn’t. Learn how to improve by observing those around you.
Be Ready – Networking can’t be forced. If you try to force it, it rarely goes anywhere. Engaging in dialogue with new people requires you to be quick on your feet and ready for responses and reactions to the conversations you partake in. If you are caught off guard, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. You are either an active networker or not, there’s nothing in the middle. It’s essential to keep your wits about you so get a good night’s rest before any large networking event!
Take Notes While You Network – Just as when you are being trained for something or preparing for a midterm, retention comes from taking good notes. Gather intelligence about yourself and others. Be diligent and take note of what you are contributing and how you can improve. In my times networking, I’ve noted that employers take notice of individuals scribbling away and it opens more doors for spontaneous conversation.
Ask Non-Traditional Questions – Get people to discover something deeper about what you know by asking them a question they wouldn’t expect. Imagine yourself as the employer; what would make you want to work for said-company?
Hold Yourself Accountable – Follow-up, follow-up, and please, follow-up! Each conversation is an opportunity and only you can gauge it. Think of yourself as a project manager responsible for identifying the new steps, who is responsible for what, and defining the outcomes and desired results. Start with a follow-up email thanking them for their time at the event you met at, maybe throw in a link to an article or update that supported something they expressed interest in. Being accountable will help sustain all the groundwork you had diligently laid down!
Be sure to attend information sessions and industry-specific meet up events Toppel has to offer in the coming weeks!