Saturday, December 1, 2012

Networking at Marketing Events (Student Edition)

"Would you recommend me going (to a specific networking event for a local chapter of a marketing group) to gain networking experience?" -non-traditional marketing student in college
Many of us know that we're "supposed to" network, but we don't really have any idea HOW to network.
Have you ever attended a networking event but really did not know what to do there?

I attended a marketing event recently, and someone I met there is a non-traditional student returning to college as an adult.  He is studying marketing.  (hardly a surprise since this was a marketing meeting)

Since he is just beginning his marketing classes, he felt really intimidated.  He was really uncomfortable introducing himself to people and asking questions.  He felt like he did not belong since he had just begun his studies in the field.  I introduced him to a couple of people, but he still felt really shy.

Since that event, he wrote me a couple of emails, asking me questions.  This past week, he asked me whether he should attend this networking event sponsored by a major marketing group in our Metro Detroit Area.

It made me think, and I realized that there was only one response...It depends.

Here is what I wrote to him, and I think it will help a lot of people who know they need to network but are not really sure how to capitalize on the networking opportunity.

I would only recommend spending the time and money IF you know what you want to get from it.

Here are some things that you, as a marketing student, might want to focus to make the most of going to an event like that.  Find people who can and are willing to share things like...
  • things you should do as a marketing student to learn "real world" marketing
  • how to learn about different aspects of marketing
  • volunteer opportunities to learn more about marketing (and gain actual experience)
  • other marketing groups
  • places to learn more about marketing (in addition to university work)
  • the area(s) of marketing that is most exciting
  • the area(s) of marketing that needs to most help (more job opportunities than qualified people to fill them)
  • the area(s) of marketing where THEY need the most help (for a while, you will not be able to help, but it will shape what you will want to learn)

In summary, begin to figure what you do not know and ask people the best way to learn it.  The more you learn, the more things you will realize that you do not know.  That's actually good news, because that means that you will always have questions to ask people.

Eventually, you will try to find ways to help people.  You will start to realize that you have skills that other people don't have or simply do not WANT to use.  Those will be your first opportunities in marketing.

If you do not take an approach like this, then I would suggest that you probably do not attend these events for a while.  If you DO take this type of approach, then I DEFINITELY recommend it.

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