By Claire Klieger
Summer is a time when lots of you will be traveling, attending parties and have countless opportunities to meet people on planes, trains or automobiles or even your local grocery store. And anytime you have a chance to meet someone is a potential opportunity to network. Over the years, I’ve heard many stories from students who said they made their first contact with an organization randomly, by meeting someone in airport or elevator. These chance encounters can sometimes lead to interviews and even possible job offers if the conversation goes well.
As the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared! Develop a short spiel, sometimes called an elevator pitch, about yourself and your interests—“Hi, my name is Claire and I’m a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Anthropology. I’m really interested in….because….” That said, often the best way to network is to ask questions. Most people really like talking about themselves so it may be easier to tailor your personal anecdotes once you know a little bit more about someone else.
Let the conversation flow naturally. No one wants to feel put upon with requests from strangers. Think of it more as a chance to get know someone new and if the conversation goes well, ask for a card or contact information so that you can follow up with them later.
Of course, you also need to be open to having these sorts of encounters which means doing more unplugging from your ipod, ipad or smart phone. So, the next time you’re on a plane and you hear the dreaded announcement of “please turn off all electronic devices…,” instead of pulling out a book, perhaps try striking up a conversation with your neighbor. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn.
For additional networking tips and resources, check out our Networking video and Making Contacts page.