EIJ 2016: How to network

By Kyle Woosley

Networking events can be awkward. You’re walking up to strangers in your professional get-up (at least, the fanciest a college student can afford), talking about how amazing you are and ending the conversation with a look of uncertainty that screams “Please hire me!”

Although it was not on the agenda, I made networking one of my number one goals for last week’s Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. And these are my top five take-aways.

  1. Always bring a hard copy of your resume. This was something I learned the hard way by not having a hard copy of my resume. I was having my resume and online portfolio critiqued by an executive producer and hiring manager at a television station in Albuquerque. Since I’m interested in becoming a producer, I picked his brain about things like editing reels, special segments and good markets to start in. However, when he handed over his business card and requested my resume, I was empty-handed. Instead, he just snapped a photo on his phone from my laptop and said he would keep me in mind. Will it stop me from hitting him up in the next few months when I’m on the job search? No. But still, having that resume would have made the situation less awkward.
  2. Make business cards. It doesn’t cost much (this site prints for a low as $7.99), and even for a student this networking survival item can make it easier to exchange information quickly, especially with your peers. I ended up with 10 different business cards at the end of this conference. And if I had printed some, those 10 people would also have my information right now. It just makes the transferal of information from person to person easier. Plus, it shows your legit about joining the field if you’ve already printed off cards.
  3. Talk to strangers. Your parents may tell you not to do this as a child, but in this instance, if a stranger offers you candy, or in this case a professional connection, I suggest taking it. Get to know the people in your field. Ask them questions. If you’re a student looking for your first job, ask how they got started. Find some more established individuals and ask them what their advice is on getting hired. This is an event where Marty Baron, formerly of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, was in attendance. You never know who you’re going to meet at this things. Connections are important in this field.
  4. Stray away from your group. Almost every connection I did make at this conference, I made in the moments I was away from the group I was attending with. Go to sessions that interest you, not just the ones that interest your co-workers or peers. When you’re alone and approaching people, you’re less eager to escape the conversation quickly and you’re more likely to be your authentic self, which is what employers want to see. It shows you know how to take the initiative to talk to people.
  5. Attend the after party. While the actual event is a great place to talk about your career goals, the after party is the best place to get to know someone outside of that, which makes for a more meaningful connection. This allows your colleagues to get to know you on a more personal level, outside of all the job stuff. It gives them a better of who you are as a person. And even if you don’t actually get the job, you may make a new friend in the process.
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