Happy first day of Fall semester!! One of the reasons I love working on a college campus is the excitement and anticipation that comes with each new semester. It’s a brand new start, with new opportunities – new friends, new professors, and new events on campus. The Office of Professional Development has especially been looking forward to this Fall semester, as it’s the official roll out of our brand new Career Professionalism modules.

One of the goals of the Career Professionalism modules is to get our business students comfortable going outside of the box. One question you will hear a lot while you’re here is – what are you going to do in your time here at UCF to stand out from the crowd? These modules are going to force you to get comfortable with one of the things that will help you stand out – NETWORKING. Your first opportunity to network will be at the college’s fall kickoff event, Welcome to the Majors, on August 22nd. We are expecting somewhere around 1,000 students at the Welcome to the Majors. We will also have key faculty members from each department, student organization members, and Employers who are there specifically to meet you.

 

Networking is scary. Walking in to a room full of strangers and having to create valuable relationships out of thin air sounds like a very unnatural, right?! Well, let’s talk about a couple things that you can do before the event and at the event that will help make it beneficial for you…after all, that’s what our office is here for! J

The early bird gets the worm!

Get there early. In fact, be the first person there! A networking event is not the time to be fashionably late. Let’s put this in perspective. If you are the first person to arrive, you get to walk in to a fairly empty room (less intimidating), you get your first pick of where you want to stand (I would recommend standing close to the door), and you get your first pick at the delicious appetizers. That means you have the control. People will have to come to you, because you’re already in the room. If you are one of the last people to arrive, you have to walk in to a loud, crowded room (very intimidating), you have to find a spot where you feel comfortable, and you’ve probably missed all the food! It’s much scarier to try to join a group of people already talking, why not be the one who people have to walk to? So, Welcome to the Majors starts at 10am on Friday. Be there at 9:55am!!

Go alone!

This is probably the tip that sounds the scariest. It’s very easy to ask your friends or classmates to go with you to a networking event, because you’ll already know people and you’ll have someone to talk to when you get there. But is that really pushing you out of your comfort zone? If you wanted to just talk to your friends, what’s the point of going to the event? If you go by yourself, you will have no other option but to talk to someone you don’t know. Will this be uncomfortable the first couple times you do it? Of course, but the more networking events you go to by yourself, the better you will get at this. If you do go with friends or you go to a networking event with a class, make it a goal of yours to separate yourself and meet new people you didn’t come with. When you strike up a conversation with someone, remember to be an active listener and engage them. Ask relevant questions – people love to talk about themselves! Before you go, think of 3 open ended questions you could ask people who are the event.

Pre-Plan

Before the event, write down a couple goals for yourself. Do research on what type of event it is. If it is sponsored by a company or has a guest speaker, do research on the company or speaker so you have something relevant to talk about. A couple goals you could think about making include:

  • How many new people do you want to meet?
  • How many professional connections do you want to make?
  • How many business cards do you want to collect?
  • How many of your business cards do you want to pass out?
  • How many follow up meetings do you want to schedule?
  • Do you want to introduce yourself to the event sponsor or organizer?

After the event, make sure you evaluate how you did with your goals. If you collected business cards, make sure you reach out to those individuals either through email or LinkedIN within 48 hours so you are still relevant. Let them know it was great to meet them, and you look forward to staying connected with them in the future. Use this advice for Friday if you are attending Welcome to the Majors. What student organizations do you want to talk to? What professors do you want to meet? What companies will be there, and who do you want to meet from the companies?

Just remember, networking is not something that comes naturally to most people. But with a little pre-planning and practice, you will continue to gain confidence and become more comfortable!! And the more comfortable you are at an event, the more likely you are to gain valuable relationships that could potentially lead you to your future dream job!

We look forward to seeing everyone at the event on Friday – if you haven’t registered yet, please do so here!!   https://www.eventbrite.com/e/welcome-to-the-majors-attendees-registration-12054311771

lindsay-bridges2

Lindsay Bridges

Career Coach – Accounting

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