CMNSU’s annual anticipated Careers in Communication is coming up, and we’re as excited as you are. For those not familiar, we’ve rounded up communications industry professionals – everyone from a social media coach to a corporate communications manager – who are eager to share their career journeys with communications students like yourself. Students will be paired with three professionals for an intimate discussion with each, and will also be able to mingle with others throughout the night. But, you’re wondering, how can you make the most of out of a networking/informational conference like CIC?
First, take a moment and think about how you want to approach the experience: are you content to sit back and soak it all in as you listen to the speakers tell their stories? If it’s your first networking conference, maybe this is the approach you decide to take. After all, it can be intimidating for the best of us, and even just listening will help you learn a little bit more about what’s out there.
However, maybe you find that you can’t let this chance to be surrounded by industry professionals go to waste, and you’re eager to step up, ask some meaningful questions, and make that genuine connection with people. If this is the case, we’ve had some of our CMNSU members and CMNSU alumni – all Careers In Communications veterans – tell you about how to have a positive experience at CIC.
If you’re not coming to the conference (don’t worry, we’re only a little bit sad L ), these tips won’t fail you as you connect with colleagues, peers, and profs throughout the other areas of your life.
Be prepared: Try to find out as much as you can about your professional’s workplace or industry – it’s the best way to discover what you’re most curious about. Have questions that can be applied to everyone, and some that are specific to your chosen professional’s career. A good start for questions is to look through past alumni interviews that CMNSU has put out. “Keep your cool. Know what you want to ask and have your questions ready, whether you’re inquiring about how to get a job in the field or what that specific industry professional did to get where they are. Be confident about it…And be sure to go to the washroom prior to networking.” (Something you’ve learned from experience, Shane?) – Shane Sharma, CMNSU Faculty and Council Representative
Be sincere: Try not to be so focused on what question you want to ask next that you forget to listen to the answers – let your authentic interest show, and the conversation will flow from there. “The key to successful networking at an event like CIC is to have a genuine conversation with the professional you are talking to. Do your research and preparation, be curious, and ask lots of questions. Don’t use this opportunity to do sales pitches on how accomplished you think you are, but take the time to make a connection and learn from the professionals’ experiences.” – Gabriel Lynn, 2014-15 CMNSU President
Be tenacious: So you’ve had a great conversation with a professional or you’re fascinated by their story…but don’t let the networking stop once you’ve left the conference! The all-important follow up is the best way to stand out. “Now that they have your business cards in hand and you’re feeling inspired, the next (and arguably most important) step is to follow up. Take the time to craft a meaningful message to your new connections while the conference is still fresh in your mind (and theirs too!). Gain further insight and foster the relationship by asking your new connections out for coffee.” Kelly Furey, CMNSU Faculty and Council Representative
“Most importantly, be proactive in reaching out to them after the event, whether it is to simply say thank you or to set up a coffee meeting, so you can continue to grow that relationship. At the end of the day, having a strong network with many connections is critical to having a career in the field of communications.” – Gabriel Lynn
Be assertive: Even if you’re shy, make a point to ask at least one meaningful question to each professional you speak with. If you don’t get your first choice professional, don’t be afraid to go up to them and mingle outside of the set round table times. They came for a reason, and they’ve definitely been in your shoes. “Even though it seems kind of cheesy, you need to put yourself out there! CIC is a relatively safe space for students to test out their networking skills, while simultaneously gaining industry knowledge. The IPs are here to give back to the communications industry, so they are willing to help give you tips, tricks and insights to success. You just have to take the first step!” – Kaylene Amundson, current CMNSU President
Feel a bit more prepared now? Good luck, and see you on Wednesday!