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Network Your Way to Success

by Alfie D. Seludo, Oklahoma State University   

Have you ever been to a professional chapter meeting and felt unsure of what to do, who to talk to, and what to say? We've heard a lot about networking, but how do you network effectively? Last fall, the Oklahoma State student chapter held a networking skills workshop called "How to Work a Room". The meeting featured speakers Shannon Warren, human resource director of PennWell Publishing Co. and Sam Sikes of Learning Unlimited Corporation in Tulsa. They provided chapter members with excellent advice on how to network at professional events.

The first key to networking is to practice a self-introduction which includes your name and something that establishes a common link with the other person. The introduction should be only eight to ten seconds long. Another tip was to provide conversation starters by asking questions such as "What did you think of the speaker today?" and "How long have you been with this organization?". You can also keep a conversation going by asking follow-up questions: "I heard that you attended SHRM's Annual Conference in San Diego last summer. Did you enjoy it? What sessions did you attend? Which one did you like the best?".

Nametags play a vital role in networking. First of all, ALWAYS place your nametag on your right-hand side. When you extend your right hand for a handshake, the other person's line of sight will go directly to your nametag. In addition, nametags give you the opportunity to address a person by name and they often provide information that can be used to begin a conversation such as a job title or organization name. For instance, while attending professional meetings, look for people with titles you would like to have someday. Begin a conversation by saying, "I see that you are director of compensation at your company. That's an area of human resources I would like to get into after I graduate. Can you describe a typical workday for me?".

For some people, networking comes naturally and for others, it takes practice. Statistics say that 65% to 70% of jobs are found through networking. Developing this important skill and using it effectively can be the key to long-term career success.

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