- An understanding of what you have to offer. Focus on what you bring to the table for others rather than what you want from others. As a student-athlete, you have developed values of dedication, perseverance, and time management. Through your education, you have learned skills of trade for your desired career path. Be bold in what you have to offer.
- A list of two or three individuals you want to make a point of introducing yourself to at the event (if you know who will be attending beforehand). Be prepared with an elevator pitch and business cards. Keep your introduction short and sweet, but impactful. Follow up immediately after the event.
- Confidence. Let your personality shine through. You have a unique story to tell. Take time and put in the effort to know someone. It may seem awkward to introduce yourself to a stranger, but remember that’s the goal of networking events – to expand your reach of influence and connect with others.
- Knowledge of what sets you apart from others. Prepare for the event by listing four or five things that differentiate you from the crowd. This could be any number of things including: you’re a student-athlete at a D-I school; perhaps, you’ve traveled internationally; or you possess a specialized skill set. Demonstrate genuine interest when you speak to people. Avoid aimlessly walking around collecting business cards.
- Ears to listen. Engage in conversation with the people by asking questions. People love to talk about their passions and what exciting venture they are currently working on. Listen more than you talk. This will help to cultivate relationships with those attending the event and leave them with a positive impression.
- Realistic expectations. Approach the networking event as a place to meet new people and learn valuable information about your career field of interest. Be positive and willing to share information about yourself. Do not be discouraged if you don’t land an interview. Networking events are places to expand who and what you know. These events are not seen as career fairs, but rather designated time to build relationships.
- Pen and business cards. Be prepared to give someone your contact information. Record significant conversations you have with other attendees. This will allow you to tailor your follow-up note more effectively. If you exchange business cards, it might be useful to jot down quick reminders about them on the back of the card. (Ladies, make sure both these items are easily accessible. You don’t want to be frantically scrambling around in your purse).
Remember: networking events, like many things in life, become easier the more you do it. Practice by introducing yourself to student-athletes outside of your sport if you see them at Rankin, or meet someone new in one of your classes. Take advantage of networking events sponsored by the UGA Athletic Association and the UGA Career Center. Most professionals in attendance know students might be apprehensive. They will help ease your fears by engaging in relevant conversation. This will be good practice for when you go to an off-campus networking event and future work functions.