Professional Perspective: Networking at the Directions Conference – Part 1

Welcome to a Directions Conference edition of Professional Perspective, where industry professionals share their insights regarding various employment-related topics!

The Directions Conference connects Red River College students in Business and Applied Arts with industry professionals in many areas of business. Keynote speakers, breakout informational sessions and the popular roundtable networking event combine into a rich and rewarding experience for both students and employers.


Zain Ali, Human Resource Manager at Domo Gasoline Corporation Ltd. is back with more of his professional perspective. Zain’s professional perspective comes from an accumulation of his personal experience as an international student and his professional work experience within various industries, and now as a Human Resource Manager.

Read on for part one of Zain’s insight on making the most out of networking events in preparation for the Directions Conference!

Today’s question:

What should students do to prepare for networking events like the Directions Conference?

Zain’s Professional Perspective

I was honoured and privileged to be an industry representative at the Directions Conference last year – where students would meet industry professionals from all walks of the business and service world, including my area of expertise in human resources.

It was a great event! I enjoyed giving tips on how to ace an interview, and some students left a remarkable first impression in asking questions about the industry AND how to be successful in one. All the potential that filled the room showed how well instructors trained Red River College students for the real world.

Connecting with the students at the Directions Conference is an experience I will not forget, and I look forward to participating in this event again this year. Networking events, as I mentioned in the blog post Professional Perspective: What you know vs. who you know, has its benefits in the long run. For this reason, I highly recommend the Directions Conference to anyone who is exploring different careers, as well as those who may already be well connected in their chosen career paths.

And to assist you in making the most out of networking events, today I am covering a few things to help you prepare for this learning experience. As a Human Resource professional, I have experience in a variety of sectors and industries, and I would recommend the following practices to impress career leaders at networking events:

Network with a purpose

Ask yourself, why are you attending this event? What do you hope to achieve from it? Is it to meet a specific future employer or just to get to know people? Whatever it is, you need to identify your purpose as it will help you shape your mindset about the event.

Google

Research the career leaders and organizations attending the event. You do not need to remember the whole guest list, but identify the key attendees with whom you should build professional relationships with. You might not have enough time to meet everyone, so plan your day accordingly.

Prepare your questions

Industry professionals appreciate the opportunity to share their expertise with those who ask great questions. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves, right? With the information about the career leaders and the companies you obtained from your research, you may ask questions to further understand their role, the company’s goals, what a typical day looks like, and why they picked the careers they are in.

When you ask these questions, I am about 110% positive that the industry professionals will ask you questions in return. They would want to know about you too, so be prepared for their questions as well. Here’s how you ace that interaction:

  • Create an elevator pitch. This is roughly 20 to 30 seconds long self introduction, which could include the program you are taking, the reason you picked that program, and your goals and aspirations. This will give each industry expert an idea whether you are on the right track and what form of guidance you might need moving forward.
  • Take notes. You might be meeting with a variety of professionals, so your notes will help you keep track of who said what during the event. You can then use this information when you are following up with them, or maybe interviewing for a position with their company. You could be sitting with your future employer!
  • Have a business card ready. This will help you stand out and make a lasting impression – in addition to being prepared because you read this post!

Show up

Networking events may or may not come with employment opportunities. But for the sake of making a good impression, picture you could land your dream job at the event. How do you want the industry professionals to perceive you?

Personal hygiene and being well groomed is always complimented. Easy going colours are mostly preferred, light/dark blue, grey, black, white – not shocking pink, neon green, or rainbow coloured pants. Try to match the aura of the workplace to blend in with the rest of the work team.

Arrive early and stay calm – networking events may get you all nervous. You don’t want to ruin your chances with a potential employer, but hey, the industry professionals recognize that you are a student and want to learn, so try to relax. Enjoy the day. Do not rush. Do not be pushy. Slow and steady wins the race!

I believe these are a few best practices for getting ready for a networking event. Once you have all of these down to a tee, networking will be a walk in the park for you.

Stay tuned for the next post on how to behave at a networking event!


Zain will be participating in the 2018 Directions Conference and you can connect with him during the Roundtable Networking Event.

Directions Conference will be held on February 8, 2018 at Canad Inns Polo Park. For more info, visit DirectionsConference.ca


To read past editions, click here:
Professional Perspective – What employers are really thinking

For additional employment resources, visit Student Employment Services’ Online Employment Resources or book an appointment with an RRC Employment Advisor at 204.632.3966 or JobCentre@rrc.ca.