I recently attended my first speed networking event at Rutgers through the Rutgers Alumni Association. Rutgers University students had an opportunity to network with alumni in various career fields in order to build their networking skills and gain valuable career advice. I rarely get the opportunity to attend networking events but I simply couldn’t pass this up because I really needed the practice in order to become a more confident job-seeker and in order to get career advice from people who were in my position not more than a few years ago; who better to help out an undergraduate student?
Before the event, I was a bit nervous seeing as it was the first speed networking event I had attended but I made sure to be prepared. Before the event, I had my elevator speech refined and resumes printed and ready. For those who have never been to a speed networking event, you have one-on-one focused conversations that last approximately five minutes before moving onto the next person. At the event I attended, everyone was split into two groups and seated facing each other. Conversations were approximately five or six minutes which left about two minutes for each person to speak and about one or two minutes for questions before moving onto the next partner. A bell signaled that time was up and students were asked to move one seat over to meet the next person.
The atmosphere was loud and energizing and fun; I made lots of new contacts. Speed networking has many pros and for me, one of them was the limited time for each conversation; this made it easier to extricate yourself from conversations that neither party was interested in. It was also better because there was no need to make small talk before the start of each conversation which made for much more interesting and substantial talks. We were even given an opportunity at the end of the event to reconnect with people with whom we wanted to talk to in more detail.
The big challenge with speed networking is the struggle to distinguish yourself in order to be remembered once the event is over. I brought my resume along but for all I knew, it would just be tossed into a pile with the rest of the resumes received that evening. Instead, I decided to follow up the day after the event by sending an email and thanking those I networked with in order to keep in touch with them. Showing gratitude and appreciation can go a long way and hopefully the contacts I made will come in handy in the future.
Perhaps the most important thing I realized at the networking event was that you shouldn’t write someone off if the prior work of the person doesn’t directly relate to your interest – there is always the possibility that they can know someone in that field who they can introduce to you. Their experiences are always enlightening to hear and who knows you might be interested in that line of work sometime in the future!
Overall, I think the night was a success after meeting many interesting people and networking with alumni. I have gained confidence to attend more networking events in the future and I hope to utilize the knowledge I gained towards future events.
Jaskamal Gill will graduate in 2016 from Rutgers University with a degree in accounting and a minor in English. Jaskamal plans on working for a Big 4 firm after college and getting her MBA. She dreams of starting her own business and enjoys Virtual Campus.