As many students are graduating this spring, they’ll enter the professional world for the first time. There’s a lot of advice out there for new grads, but let’s start with something relatively easy – networking!
1. Learn how to remember names and faces.
The best piece of advice someone ever gave me about trying to remember names is, ”Just try.” When meeting someone new, repeat it back as a question (“Sarah?”) to make sure that you heard it correctly. A lot of people, including myself, get into a negative thought pattern of “I’m terrible with names. I’ll just forget.” which only causes us to put less effort into it. A little effort goes a long way. When you remember someone’s name, it makes them feel special and it helps them remember you back.
2. Carry contact cards.
Even if you’re a student, carrying a business card with contact information is very useful, especially at conferences. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Pro tip: put a few of your cards in each of your jacket pockets so you’ll always have some in a pinch.
3. Make the most of parties.
Think of networking at social events more in terms of connecting with new people with similar passions and goals. At most parties, you don’t have the luxury of already having something in common with every person there. Learn how to be an expert conversationalist. One of the best ways to keep someone engaged in a conversation is to ask questions. Learn how to be a good listener. Take an interest in what people do and ask questions rather than just waiting for another opportunity to speak. Knowing how to tell jokes and make thoughtful or intelligent remarks definitely earns you points, but being a good listener makes people want to be around you, makes them feel valued, and creates trust.
4. Dress for success.
It’s an unfortunate fact that some will make judgments about your appearance, rather than the knowledge in your brain and the passion in your heart. I resent that we can’t be radically expressive in all areas of our lives, but in order to be taken seriously in the professional world, knowing how to dress appropriately makes a huge difference. If you’re not sure how to dress for an event, contact one of the organizers or a mentor to find out what they recommend. Check out a thrift store for amazing deals on nice clothes, try on different styles you haven’t considered before to see what fits your shape well, and consider getting something tailored for an extra sharp look.
5. Don’t be afraid of strangers.
Approaching someone new can be scary if you haven’t had much practice. Learn how to introduce yourself confidently. If you don’t know many people at the event, or if you’re itching to talk to someone you admire, find a gregarious mentor to give you some pointers or provide an introduction. Carefully observe social interactions; listen intently to word choices, body language and proximity, and facial expressions. And don’t assume that older and more influential people don’t want to meet you. Most leaders in drug policy and the cannabis industry started their careers with grassroots organizing and are enthusiastic to meet the newest generation of reformers. They also have amazing stories to tell.
6. Make the most of your existing networks.
Looking for a job? Want to get some advice on different career paths? Need to practice job interviews? Want someone to review your resume? SSDP alumni are here to help! Join me the SSDP Alumni Association today.