Originally published @ internofme.tumblr.com

The other day, I went to my first networking event of the summer. I have been to networking events in the past, and I’ll tell you first hand- you only get better at being a networker by attending as many of these as you can. After awhile the awkward smiles and the fumbling handshakes will end. Here are my top tips for networking interns!

BRING: Attire that makes you feel and look great, hand sanitizer (not joking) notebook and pen, your business card, your perfected elevator pitch, your willingness to show up, be yourself and have a good time!

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Three speakers @ Camden Waterfront Ventures Conference, 2016

(1) Perfect your elevator pitch 

I find it best to practice this pitch before hand. Write out what you do and who you are as a professional, and then trim it down until its a clear, simple pitch under 30 seconds. This is what you will say when you meet someone new!

(2) If you’re a student, use your student status 

The event I went to was around $30-50. As a student, I was able to get in FREE! Flaunt it if you got it. Make sure to let people know that you’re a college student- it gets you free stuff and often more connections since everyone assumes your’e not competition. P.S: Mention what college you go to. Whenever I meet fellow Rutgers alumni they are excited to help me/connect in any way they can!

(3) Make diverse connections 

Though I mostly work with Communications professionals, I still try to get as many connections as I can in as many fields as I can. For one, it makes for some interesting conversation about a new industry. Two, a diverse network is a great way to help you broaden your audience, and meet the friends of friends that can get you new opportunities.

(4) Take notes, take pictures, do you!

I am a compulsive note taker, and I found myself trying not to take notes during one entrepreneurs speech. I loved everything he was saying and was trying my hardest not to reach for my notebook, and scream nube to all the surrounding entrepreneurs. Then, I figured: what the heck! There is no shame in showing how eager I am to learn, and how excited/passionate I am about my work. That being said, take notes, ask for a picture with someone you admire- be yourself!

(5) If you go with a friend, don’t stick together the whole time.

It’s great if you have a friend to visit one of these events with, but try not to be with each other the whole, entire time! It gets too easy to stick near the free wine and only talk to them. Why not strategize? With a team, more connections can be made! Make it a competition even- how many meaningful connections can you make in an hour?

(6) Exchange business cards or names with whoever you connect with

This is super important! It’s important to have great conversations. It’s ESSENTIAL to keep the conversation going after the event. One way I make sure this happens is by asking: “Can we exchange cards?” rather than “Can I give you my card” and assuming they will hand theirs back to me.

(7) Wait in line for the speakers who are worth it

Who did you see that astounded you? Who gave a presentation that hit all of your values? Though it will be annoying to wait in line to personally talk to them, you should do it! This will most likely be your only chance, and showing appreciation goes a long way.

(8) Don’t let the demographics of the event get you down 

I am an activist, which means I acknowledge the systems of privilege that guide the experiences of underprivileged groups and I try to correct this by spreading awareness. As a black woman going to an entrepreneurial event, you can bet that the demographics were very white and very male. Being a female, a person of color, disabled, gay, etc. can make it even more stressful to network. My advice is to acknowledge your emotions, breathe and jump right in to the rest of these tips. Definitely talk to trusted friends and mentors about your feelings concerning these experiences.

(9) Don’t feel awkward- remember that everyone else is there to network, too!

(10) Follow up on LinkedIn and social media the day after

A connection is not truly made until it’s social media official. Make sure to use the big pile of business cards you have and connect with the people you met online! This will lead to future opportunities and help you to stay in the know about what everyone else is doing.

Do you have any tips to add?

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