Hey everyone, it’s Jodi here. In my forth blog I’ll be writing about networking. Serious topic, right?
I was born and raised in mainland China and before I came to Dallas in 2013 fall, I had zero networking experience. Though I hear people discussing the importance of networking, I was never taught how it worked or how to do it. When I planned to move to the United States, I put networking among my top three priorities. As I got off flight the first day I arrived, I told myself I had to ‘network, network, network.’
To be honest, my early experiences did not go well. Fortunately, I am not afraid to fail; if you just try, there’s nothing to lose. After attending 20+ events, 50+ workshops and sending 100+ emails, I felt I had gotten a hang of it. I had now become comfortable at any event I attended and I no longer felt shy to talk to anyone. Finally, I was able to gain from the benefits of networking. I knew networking would not be easy for an international student, but it was well worth the try it. In this blog, I want to share 5 tips to improve networking skill.
Prepare your Elevator Pitch
I knew that everyone should prepare their elevator pitch when heading out to events, but I did not realize how mine would compare to those of experts. My pitch would usually go something like, ‘I am just a marketing student in UTD, and I am a fan of Dallas marketing and start-up communities’. While expert networkers sounded more like, ‘I am cofounder of opentime app. I have several years of corporate experience in Java and Python programming. I am also a member of Dallas start-up communities, to support them, I organized Entrepreneurship Club in UTD and help promote events in TEDxUTD’. As you see, the call to action for the second pitch is much strong than mine. Also, when you re-frame your words into a beautiful ‘package’ can make it powerful. So don’t underestimate yourself. Show off your latest projects, involvement with industry and professional experience. Don’t begin with a statement like ‘I am just a student’, make your introduction more confident and powerful.
Why I should help you?
After hundreds of times networking, I still had a bit of confusion. I kept asking myself, ‘Why are people willing to help so much?’ Not until recently, I figured out what the real problem is. We should change the questions from ‘Why won’t they help me?’ to ‘Why should they help me?’ Most of the time, we don’t consider whether we give enough reasons for others to help, but just take their kindness for granted. Like I discussed in the previous blog. This is all about your involvement, your consistency. Networking is not about one-time transaction, but instead a subscription. You should show your involvement and give your love back to the communities. Your hard work in networking will pay off soon.
Don’t just take, give
There are times when I’ve asked for help and didn’t get it. It’s rare but we can’t deny that some people don’t think to return favors. Still, we should think about how we can give, instead of focusing on what we can get. It’s important to note that not everything you give has to be tangible, by just being empathetic you can make someone’s life easier. Especially when looking to set a meeting with them. For example, writing quick and efficient emails makes it easier for the other person to read. Including your available time to meet and creating a Google Calendar event makes it easier for someone to help you and takes a lot of the headaches of back and forth email.
Strong Recommend: Ramit Sethi — 50 prove email scripts
Small tool to help you track your email: Yesware
Online networking basics course: NQuotient
The hidden power of Introduction
I often have discussions with my friend and fellow Dallas community member, Chirag Gupta about the challenge of getting replies from people for informational interviews. We agree it doesn’t have to be difficult. Getting introduction from mutual friends can help move into three-win strategy. We can utilize LinkedIn to find common connections. Also we should make sure to get introduction approval.
Don’t limit yourself just ‘networking’, Try to learn new things
In my early days of networking, I made a lot of mistakes. One of my wrong assumptions was that networking was for finding people to give me referrals. We shouldn’t just focus on selling yourselves. Why not listen to others’ stories, or learn their new projects to spark you next ideas! The goal of thse workshops is not only networking but also meet new people and inspire next big ideas. How boring would it be if everyone pitched like this, ‘I recently graduated from UTD. I finished social media analyst project at school and now looking for a full-time job.’ What you’ve done and are doing is interesting so don’t make it sound boring. Refresh your mind and be the interesting people in the group.
Help others = Help yourself
It’s possible that one day you will you will be in a position to give someone else a job referral. If that is the case, don’t ever hesitate to do it, because you never know what will happen next. The fresh grad you helped could be your next employer, or even the recruiter for your daughter’s favorite marketing agency. I appreciate the motto from my friend Raj, ‘I make a conscious effort on a daily basis to improve my life and the lives of people around me’. For those reasons and many others, I love to help others!
This concludes my fourth blog. I should say it is not easy for international student to be the insider of networking. Luckily, I am not afraid to try it. Just by trying, I gained more feedback, knowledge and friends than I expected. I hope all you international students land a great job after graduation.