Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Network Like a Pro

By Kelsey McWilliams, Marketing Intern at CU-Boulder Career Services

Networking can be an intimidating experience, but it can also be a very rewarding one if you play your cards right. Even though you may not realize it, you are constantly surrounded by potential networking opportunities, whether you’re interacting with peers, parents, colleagues or strangers. Read on for some helpful tips that will surely enhance your next networking experience.
The art of networking is a difficult skill to teach or explain. The best way for me to give advice is through personal experience, so I’d like to share one of my most meaningful networking encounters.

Two years ago CU-Boulder, among other schools across the country, hosted the Clinique Fresh Faces Tour, which offered students the chance to “win” a summer internship with Clinique in New York City.

Hoping to work at home in Los Angeles for my first summer back from college, I wasn’t particularly interested in the New York internship opportunity. I was, however, very interested in a Public Relations career in the beauty industry. Knowing that networking was going to be my ticket into the industry, I decided to go to the event, hoping that there would be some influential executives in attendance.

Tip #1: Know who you want to talk to in advance
I arrived at the event with every intention of finding someone with whom I could network. At first when I asked if there were any corporate representatives from Clinique in attendance I was completely shot down. This brings me to my next networking tip...

Tip #2: Persistence is key
With a hunch that my luck would change if I were patient enough, I stuck around the event awaiting for my opportunity. After lingering for a while I finally got the chance to meet CeCe Coffin, Senior Vice President of Global Communications for Clinique (and a CU-Boulder alum)!

Tip #3: Strut your stuff
Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself in a positive light while also making sure to maintain a two-way conversation (it’s not all about you)! I showed CeCe that I am a motivated, passionate and reliable job candidate through stories about my past job experience at a PR firm in Los Angeles, and she ended up recommending me for a position at Smashbox Cosmetics. Who knew that a short conversation could land me such an incredible opportunity? My summer internship at Smashbox was a direct result of my networking opportunity with Cece Coffin.

Tip #4: You have lots to learn
Take networking encounters as an opportunity to learn. By asking open-ended questions like “How have you enjoyed being in the industry?” and “What are the challenges you’ve faced?” I gained insight into CeCe’s career and personal background. This information was incredibly helpful in making my own decisions, as I was able to relate to her experiences and foresee myself in a life like hers. Not only did CeCe end up helping my find an internship, but she has also served as a mentor ever since we met.

Tip #5: Follow up, follow up, follow up
As a general rule of thumb it is always important to follow up, and networking opportunities are no exception. Make sure to get the contact information of the person you’re talking to so that you can send them a thank you note via email. It is important to recognize and appreciate the time they took to speak to you. Plus, you never know when you may want to email them with a question or favor!

Overall, make sure to always be engaged, professional and appreciative. Networking opportunities often lead to potential jobs and internships, so it is important to always put your best foot forward!