On January 30th, the University of Georgia’s Career Center is hosting a Diversity and Inclusion Conference on the evening prior to the Spring Career & Internship Fair. The event is an opportunity for students of diverse talent to meet with employer representatives through sessions, a dinner, and a networking fair.
If you are interested in attending, check out the following tips on how to successfully network and advance your professional development.
1. Introduce yourself with confidence.
The first impression is crucial. You have the ability to set the tone with every person you meet. Two key factors that go into this process are your handshake and elevator pitch. Your handshake should be appropriately firm while maintaining eye contact; be sure to smile during the entire exchange.
When introducing yourself to an employer representative, an elevator pitch is an effective tool to concisely communicate your professional brand, goals, and experiences. The term elevator pitch comes from the concept that if a person were stuck in an elevator for several floors with an important company leader, this one-minute monologue would help the person receive a job or promotion.
The elevator pitch has been broken down into four categories below:
- Name & Introduction
- Who are you? What is your major? What else should they know about you?
- Are there any important diverse identities or backgrounds you would like to share with them?
- Why are you here? What kind of experience are you looking to gain (such as a certain type of internship or full-time job)?
- Experience & Qualifications
- What are three skills or experiences that make you stand out against other candidates? How are you qualified for this type of company or experience?
- Closing Actions
- What questions do you have for the recruiter? How will you engage them in further conversation? What actions will you take to follow up (such as asking or exchanging business cards, asking to show them your resume, etc.)?
Practice incorporating the above information into a confident, succinct introduction that runs anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute long. The reason practice is important is because you will most likely have to share your introduction with every person you network with at the event or career fair.
In addition to your introduction, professional attire is also important to making a positive first impression. Selecting the right outfit can be stressful; it is advised that you wear something you feel represents who you are, both personally and professional, and what profession or industry you are interested in working.
How you prepare your attire for a job fair or networking event is more important than the actual items of clothing you are wearing. However, be sure to complete the following:
- Press or steam your clothes neatly
- Prioritize personal hygiene, whatever this may include for you
- Shine shoes, even without shoe polish
- Wear minimal distracting jewelry
- Don’t try something new with your hair or makeup beforehand
- Avoid cologne or perfume—keep it very subtle if used
After your strong first impression, what is next? The answer is: building strong relationships and connections with others. Consider having a plan of different questions you can ask to cultivate conversations. The goal of a networking event is not to leave the night with a job or internship offer—rather it is a time to find professional connections in your interested field, gain valuable insight, and also engage with colleagues.
Here are some questions you can ask to help make this happen:
- How did you decide to do what you do?
- How did you hear about this event?
- What are some of your go-to resources for getting guidance in your field of work?
- How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?
- What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
- What impresses you the most when you are considering hiring someone?
- Where are you from?
- What do you enjoy most about your job/company?
- Would it be possible for me to get your business card/email address? It would be great to find out more about [insert topic here].
To ensure final preparation for the event, the last suggestion is to think about what you need to physically bring to the event. Chances are that you will meet a lot of people that night, so it is suggested to bring something to take notes. A padfolio or notebook is a good resource to write down all the names and information of people you meet—or to write down some of their wisdom. You can also bring copies of your resume for potential networking or even review, along with copies of your business card.
Lastly, you should also prepare what you are going to leave the event with in your possession. This includes asking and collecting various cards or asking others to connect on LinkedIn. After obtaining their information, it is important to send a form of thank you, whether it is over email, social media, or a physical letter, to establish contact and lay the foundation for a future relationship.
Preparation, practice, and faith in yourself are the three ways to successfully navigate the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Conference. It is important to remember that the professional representatives in attendance are there because of your diverse identities, so be sure to be take ownership and pride of these experiences that make you stand out.