After a long year of exams, papers, and messy roommates, you’re smack-dab in the middle of a sweltering summer break, and school is the last thing on your mind. Your concern lies with bikinis, beaches, and barbecues, not with classes, lab schedules and next semester’s roommates. But what are your classmates up to? Are they working on their tans or working on their résumés and job placement?
Many students and business professionals are perfecting their networking skills all year long. The question is, are you?
As jobs become scarcer, so, too, do job postings and job fairs, and it’s all about whom you know and what they know about you. Networking has become an imperative part of pursuing a job and a career, and you need to be a shark when it comes to making connections.
Become a social media maven
Even if you’re only a sophomore or junior, it’s never too early to build an online brand and presence. Social media is only going to get more advanced, so why not get a jump-start on internships and experience? Start a blog (Wordpress is a free blogging site) and post interesting news articles about STEM, published journals and studies, or work you’ve completed. When you start applying for jobs, link to your blog site to show your prospective employer how much the STEM field interests you.
Do the same with social media sites like Twitter and Tumblr. Hashtag words like “STEM” or “sciencenews” and see what other interesting information pops up. Follow Twitter handles like @Scientista_Talk, @nytimesscience, and @wiredscience to stay informed all summer. It’s also important to follow potential future employers on social media. By “liking” their page on Facebook or retweeting their posts on Twitter, your enthusiasm may lead to a job.
Update your résumé and online presence
Once you start applying for internships and jobs, you need a strong, updated résumé to broadcast your skills and accomplishments. Google yourself to see what future employers will see: Is it a picture of your latest lab award or your latest late-night outing? If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the site and app and making your profile strong and clean for prospective employers. Link articles and work you’ve written, upload your résumé, join groups, and make sure your profile picture is as professional as possible.
Attend networking events
But before you do, make sure you practice a few things:
- How to handshake:
Etiquette International's 6 Tips for a Good Handshake mandates that it is “firm but not bone-crushing," "lasts about three seconds," and "includes good eye contact with the other person."
- Remembering names:
There is nothing more embarrassing (or detrimental) than meeting a prospective employer and then forgetting his or her name. At the event, ask for business cards and write notes about them on the card.
- Making conversation:
It sounds elementary, but there is only so much you can say about the weather or last season’s Girls series (re: shows for scientistas). Have questions prepared that you can mold to any person about any organization. Remember, people love talking about themselves.
Master the art of bragging
As women, we don’t have a problem talking, but we do have a problem talking about ourselves. Don’t be arrogant, but be proud of the work you’ve done. Highlight your successes and make sure you are confident in expressing that you deserve the credit, not that you got lucky.
Ask your friends
When we network, we often forget about our friends and family. It’s vital to include them, too! When you’re starting to look for internships and jobs, send out a friendly email and attach your résumé. Let your friends know you’re on the job hunt and to keep their ears open.
You’ve already done all the legwork and made some great (and not-so-great) connections. Don’t stop there! Send an email and let your new contacts know how fabulous it was meeting with them at an event or connecting online. In the email, make a point to say something specific about the conversation to show that the initial meeting was memorable (remember the advice I gave about jotting down notes on their business card?). Ask to meet (give possible dates and times) and see if you can make a further connection that could lead to a job or internship. With follow-ups, a simple “thank you” email leaves a priceless impression on a prospective connection or employer.
Stay in touch and maintain your network. And remember, when people ask you for advice and connections, return the favor. Since you’re a networking expert now, share the wealth!
Can’t wait to get started? Check out these great networking websites and apps:
Scientista Meetups - Events for women in science and engineering! Find out about local scientista events near you.
Groupme – The best way to chat with everyone you know
Happening – Nearby events in your pocket
Meetup – Neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something
Planely – Reach out for business, rideshare, or great fun