Last night, I attended a workshop at Western through the College of Business and Economics. It is apart of their series of Professional Readiness workshops and this one focused on networking. The workshop featured three professionals from Whatcom County: Debbie Ahl, former President and CEO of Sterling Life Insurance Company; John Veitch, Financial Representative at Northwestern Mutual; and Shawn Kemp, Founder and Cheif Product Officer at Action Sprout.
Main three takeaways:
- Contact professionals and/or companies and ask them for an informational interview.
- Be direct and fearless with your networking!
- Remember that most professionals want to help aspiring students.
What was great about this workshop was that it was very active. There was a brief presentation at the beginning, but after that we spent an hour in three smaller breakout sessions practicing some of the very skills that are essential to network: conducting informational interviews and giving an elevator pitch.
Two of the breakout sessions gave students the opportunity to practice asking typical questions of informational interviews. The last breakout session gave the students the opportunity to do an elevator pitch (or really a mini-interview) one-on-one with one of the professionals.
I was nervous throughout the entire workshop, however I also felt extremely grateful to be able to practice these skills in a supportive and relatively low-pressure environment. All of the professionals who attended and facilitated the workshop were extremely approachable and personable.
One more thing: In the last couple years, I have started to learn how to network. It is never comfortable. I am always nervous and unsure, but I have never heard anything but positive feedback about the power of networking and how much others actually want to do it. Whether you are a student or a new or seasoned professional, if you are not actively networking now, I suggest you get started doing so!