This post was written by Sarah Rudd, Sage Corps' summer marketing intern.

“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

Being a college student, this phrase has become increasingly familiar as I’ve entered my upperclassman years. But what does it mean, and why is it important?

As Sage Corps’ marketing intern these past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to attend multiple professional events alongside the Chicago cohort. Most recently, I attended Technori’s Legends event, and the event kicked off with an entire hour dedicated to networking.

Growing up, I always considered myself an introvert, so the prospect of networking has always been daunting to me. The idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger was never something I had considered comfortable, and I never thought that I would be able to network with strangers as well as my more extroverted peers.

Are you nodding your head in solidarity? Trust me, I get it. BUT, what I’ve come to realize this summer is how easy it actually is to make a connection with someone, and in turn continue to grow your professional network.

At the Technori event, I ended up meeting the founder of Current Nightlife App, other students from the University of Illinois whom I had never met on campus before, and Scott Kitun (Technori’s CEO, no big deal) even jumped in to photobomb my picture.

How did I do this, you ask? I started to realize that everyone is in the same boat. Sure, some people are definitely more comfortable initiating conversation than others. But at the same time, when it comes to networking, everyone has the same goals, which helps level the playing field to create a more comfortable and open environment for casual conversation. Everyone is looking to talk to someone, which creates a mutual desire to connect. Never in a million years would I have expected myself to feel comfortable at an event where the sole purpose was to put yourself out there and meet someone new, but by simply letting my guard down I was able to successfully establish new relationships (and have a great time doing so!).

Still feeling anxious? Not sure where to start? Keep reading, we’ve got you covered.

Tips

We turned to the experts to pull some of the best networking tips to help you as you prepare for your next networking event. Matt Barnett, CEO of Vimily Pty Ltd, shared some of his most helpful networking tips. Here they are:

  • “Just be you. You’re doing a great thing, you’re interesting, eager to learn, have a different perspective, everyone will find that great. Share your passions.”

  • “Just jump in. Everyone is okay with that – you have nothing to lose, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.”

  • “Play the student card: No successful person got where they are without a little help, and we all like to give back. If someone interests you, and you want to learn – ask them exactly that. Ask if you could grab a coffee with them down the line to learn a little more about their industry etc.”

  • “Make sure you have a reason to catch up – if you’re interested in starting a company, their advice is enough reason. Most of us will meet with you. “

Susan Chappell, Employer Engagement Manager from the Career Services Center at Pennsylvania State University, offered this additional piece of advice:

“Networking events can be scary to the new attendee but don’t let that keep you from going! Preparation and practice are the key to a good experience. Developing a strong 30-second elevator pitch (including who you are, your major, professional interests, and relevant student activities) and a firm handshake can make all the difference. And don’t forget the real reason that you are there: to build your professional network. So send a note of thanks after the event to those people who invited you and/or shared their contact information to let them know just how much you enjoyed the opportunity.

In case you need just a few more words of wisdom, Larry Jackson, Assistant Director of Student Career Advising at Northwestern Career Advancement, offered this final piece of advice:

"Dress professionally, and know your goal for networking. Ask open ended questions in order to stimulate conversation."

Where and How to Find Events

Now that you know how to network, it’s time to find an opportunity to put your skills to the test. Although it is possible to network in less formal situations, networking events can provide a more successful opportunity to establish connections. Matt provided a few additional tips on how to find networking events:

  • Ask your host company what they will be going to, and tag along!

  • If you are working in a startup space or are able to find a startup space or community, get on the event mailing list! From Tank Stream Labs in Sydney, Australia, to WeWork offices around the globe, there are plenty of events to attend

  • Hop on Meetup, Eventbrite, and get searching!

  • Ask each other – start a Facebook group with fellow interns and get everyone to post whatever they find.

What are you waiting for? Now that you know where to find the events and how to go about networking, get out there and meet people! And don’t forget to add them on LinkedIn - maybe even throw in a personal note about how you enjoyed their conversation, and would like to reconnect in the future. Who knows, that newly established connection could be your next customer, business partner, or even future boss!

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