Top 4 Tips for Effective Networking: Homecoming Edition

Happy Homecoming, Tigers! As we celebrate this wonderful week with decorations, our parade and our football game (and so many other things), who would think you’d have time to build toward your career? Well now that Tigers from all over are coming back to campus, this is your special chance to get out there and expand your professional network. Let’s be honest, with these networking tips the real King or Queen of Homecoming will be you!

1. Be on the lookout
During this time, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for returning alumni who might be beneficial to speak to. It may be a bit difficult to recognize these people at first, but there are ways to find them. One of the best ways to find these people would be to ask professors in your department if anyone has said they’ll be back on campus. Ask your professors if they have any background information on these people (current job, year they graduated, etc.) so you can come prepared to ask questions. Some departments may even host alumni meet-ups for students to attend. Don’t forget to stay in touch with other organizations to see if they’ll be hosting alumni during Homecoming.

2. Don’t be shy!
Now that you know who’s coming, don’t be afraid to approach these people. Chances are, they were in your shoes and know what it’s like to hustle and bustle to get your career off the ground. Just think about how beneficial it would be to speak to that person; you may never get a chance like that again. All you’ll have to do is greet them with a friendly “hello” and a nice handshake. If you’re not sure where to steer the conversation, begin with something casual like “What’s it like to be back?” After you’ve warmed up to each other, then you can move on to asking them about their career.

3. Keep it professional
Most of the returners on campus are probably looking to have a good time being back on campus and speaking to all of you. But like with any networking situation, be sure to keep things professional. Mainly, try to avoid asking questions that come off as being too needy. It’d be a shame if a conversation is going great, and then they’re hit with,“So do you have a job for me?” You want to make that person feel like you are truly interested in getting career advice from them rather than just using them to get a job. Ask them questions about their career path, what the environment is like at their office and what makes a good intern/employee. If the conversation is going well, you could ask what kind of intern/job positions are typically available later.

4. Follow up
Now that you’ve gotten through the conversation, you’ll want to make sure to stay in touch if you really valued who they are. Just like with a job interview, you’d want to contact them again within 24 hours just to stay fresh on their mind. One way of doing this is by sending a quick email reflecting on your conversation. You could also send them a LinkedIn request with a message reminding them of who you are. In some industries, it may even be okay to follow their professional social media accounts. To really drive it home, follow up with that person every few months so that you’re still fresh on their minds. For example, pass along an article or something relevant that may interest them – some of this could even be your work. If you follow all of those steps, you could be on the fast track to having an awesome career thanks to some awesome alumni you met during Homecoming!