As a student or business professional, you must have visited a conference, presentation, or career fair and left with a load of business cards. Fantastic! You must be pretty good at networking. Fast-forward to 2 months later, and if you’re like most people, you still have your business cards, and you’ve probably sent an email to each of your contacts. Maybe you’re now connected on LinkedIn, but that’s pretty much it. There is no real connection between you and any of these people.
You would agree with me that unless you made a very strong first impression, none of these contacts of yours are likely to think of you when they come across jobs or similar opportunities. Instead, they will think about their ‘friends’: people whom they know and have some sort of real and positive connection with. When it comes to networking, meeting people is not an end in itself. Rather, it should help you form those positive connections that will make you memorable to others. In essence, networking is not measured by those you know, but by those who know you in a positive light.
So how do we make these memorable connections? Unfortunately, social media tools just don’t cut it. You have to get off your computer, get out there, and start meeting people. If this sounds daunting, especially for international students, join the club. I still remember meeting the global Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Chevron at one of the networking sessions in my school. What could I say to him? In retrospect, pretty much anything: he’s still human.
So this is my challenge to you. Look through that large list of business cards, and pick out two (yes only two) people whom you had that tiny ‘moment’, ‘spark’ or whatever with. Call or email them, and set up an appointment to chat about their company, industry, careers, or your own career aspirations. If they are mere mortals like the rest of us, it is very possible that they’d love to help you out by talking about their most favorite topic in the world: themselves.
What if they don’t respond? Well, that’s a big stash of cards you have there. Use it, and reach out to more people. The more you do this, the greater your network of people who know and like you will become. Have fun! 🙂
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