News - Career Networking for the Beginner: What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Career Networking for the Beginner: What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

By Scott Giffen '99

career fairCareer coaches have a lot to say to college students about taking the plunge into job fairs and networking events: prepare your resume, dress appropriately, ask thoughtful questions, practice your one-liner “elevator speech,” and more, much more.

The most memorable networking advice I ever received, however, came not from a career professional, but from my dad. It’s simply this: be nice to everyone.

Being nice to everyone gives you something to do when you enter an unfamiliar place to engage with wall-to-wall strangers. It tames your awkward feelings and helps you converse with others, even when a voice deep within tells you to run away from that place like the wind!

In a nutshell, being nice gives you something to do when you don’t know what to do, and at a networking event, this is what it looks like:career fair3

  • Establishing eye contact and smiling at the person who hands you your nametag and everyone else you encounter thereafter.
  • Making your first partner in conversation feel like the most important person in the room. Once you’ve succeeded at that, go ahead and do the same in your next conversation and the next.
  • Noticing someone who’s sitting alone and engaging that person in conversation. Even a comment like, “Wow, this is a great turnout,” can lead to an introduction and shared information.
  • Staying sensitive to a conversation that has run its course. Moving on with a sincere “thanks, it was so good to talk” is perfectly fine.
  • Refraining from asking for a job (that’s “me” centered) even if that’s your purpose for attending, but do ask questions about the company, or for advice on breaking into the industry (“you” centered).

My dad used to say that there is great providence in business and great providence in networking. God works in our availability; He will ensure that the connections we make are the ones that will help further His plan for our life.

Scott Giffen


Scott Giffen '99 CFRE, is managing partner of SDG FundRaising. Scott has raised funds for theaters and symphonies nationwide, and is GC's 2009 Outstanding Young Alumnus.





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This story was published on March 31, 2017

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