This post is meant to give you some tips on how to network with industry professionals and other students either at a conference, career fair or a social event. I was not very accustomed to doing this when I first moved to the US and I am most certainly not an expert at it now, but I’ve learned a few things over the past couple years:
- Have a few brief lines about yourself prepared in advance so that you’re not fumbling when you first introduce yourself to someone. Being international already sets you up to be perceived as someone who may not be very fluent in *American* English, so do what you can to sound as prepared as possible.
- If you’re a graduate researcher or have a significant student body position, it might be a good idea to get business cards printed to hand out at events. Leaving someone with a business card gives them the chance to look at your information in writing instead of second guessing your possibly very international name!
- Speaking of names, if yours is extremely hard to pronounce outside of your native country, it might be a better option to come up with a clever acronym, or even an American version of your name (if you’re comfortable with it) so that recruiters spend less time trying to say your name and more focussing on your achievements. This also helps making new international friends easier.
- Ask for clarification on a topic of discussion if what the other person said to you wasn’t clear (particularly because of their different accent). It is always better to reiterate than to pretend you understood them and not be able to respond appropriately.
- Pay attention to what you say to someone from a culture that’s very different from your own. You might offend them without meaning to by simply not knowing what is considered offensive in their culture.
- Try to steer away from controversial political matters unless it was the other person that brought it up. A lot of countries are less fortunate to have an unstable government and that could spark unwarranted conversations while networking.
- Add the person you met on LinkedIn, Facebook or any other appropriate form of social network depending on the circumstances you met in. There is not point in networking if they aren’t eventually a part of your online network.
- Smile! It is an internationally accepted symbol of friendship 🙂