Trying to build you career can be complicated and stressful. Besides having to work on projects, resume and studies, you also have to network. Networking can be nerve-racking but it’s a necessary part in becoming successful. While it’s so important to be the sharpest tool in the shed and an expert in your field, there is some truth to the saying ‘it’s not about what you know but who you know’. My experience and education can propel me to new avenues of success but connecting with those in the field elevate you exponentially. Networking gives your the opportunity to gain a mentor, learn new information and open doors for you. Network with individuals you admire, would like to work with and people you can learn from. While the semantics of actually networking can vary from person to person based on circumstances and personality, I thought I’d share with you a few tips on how to prepare yourself for a career event. The goal is get you get yourself ready so that any jitters can be subdued and your inner rockstar can shine through.
- Read the mission of the organization hosting the event: This is the first step in preparing yourself for a big networking event. Make sure you have a strong understanding why you’re going, what they’re offering and how your personal mission statement matches with the organizations mission statement. This will also give you clarity as to what to expect and how to best prepare.
- Read the most recent news articles about your field: Remember in grade school when your teacher would assign current event projects? Little did you know that this was your first lesson in networking. Being knowledge about the most recent information about your field will allow you to follow presentations, hold conversations and prepare questions. It also gives you a few fun facts to throw into conversation and makes you look organized, progressive and inquisitive. These are the main qualities any company, school or person looks for in a potential employee, student or partner.
- Skim your old textbooks: Have you ever been in a doctor’s or professor’s office and seen bookshelves so full that books begin piling on top of desks and chairs? This is because the most successful people constantly read and reread. They’re known for keeping literature for reference. This is the reason why I’ve kept so many of my medical and nutrition textbooks from college. Odds are if you’re going to a conference or career event, you’re already invested in that topic or have taken college courses about the field. Have a skim through your old books, reread snippets you find important and freshen up on important material. Doing this gives you creditability of being an expert in your field when you have conversations with important individuals, which could open up a lot of doors for you.
- Watch a TED Talk about your topic: Possibly the easiest way to freshen up on material or learn something new is by watching a TED Talk. At a recent medical conference I attended I saw a doctor whose TED Talk I had watched and decided to go up to him to tell him just that. Needless to say, he was quite impressed and then introduced me to the Dean of the medical school he teaches at. Now, that may not happen at an event you’re attending but it helps keep you up to date with new information and topics in your respective field. Click here to check out the TED Talk YouTube Channel.
- Look up guest speakers: Guest speakers tend to be the highlight of any event, which gives you the opportunity to connect with someone super important in your field. Majority of the time, there is tons of information about these individuals online such as interviews, books and articles about their work. Knowing more about the guest speaker gives you a leg up when it’s time to open the floor up for questions and potentially connecting with that individual.
- Read important legislation concerning your field: Politics is a part of all of our fields in one way or another. If you’re interested in business, you should brushed up on the tax code. If you’re in healthcare, make sure you read the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If you’re in education, read up on policy developed by Department of Education at state and federal level. This gives you a deeper understanding as to the dynamic parts of your field. Again, being an expert in your field allows you opportunities to have great conversations when connecting with other professionals.
- Review Event Emails: Organizations that host events will send frequent emails that include itinerary, tips, do’s and don’ts, and relevant information. Sometimes they will also include information for you to know before hand in order to best prepare for the big day.
- Have Everything Ready: Get it all together so that you aren’t scrummaging around to get organized! This includes your resume, questions, clothing and itinerary. This is to insure the day goes smoothly so you can avoid mishaps and awkward moments.
Remember that the more you know, the better you will do. After all, you can never be over-dressed or over-educated.