This summer, many of our interns will be participating in a Lincoln program known as MyTern, an experience sponsored by the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development (LPED). The program is designed to connect Lincoln interns and introduce them to an important part of the professional world: networking.

While networking is a soft skill that is often excluded from a school curriculum, it is an incredibly useful tool to have. Most importantly, it’s a skill that anyone can master with practice and a bit of experience. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you make lasting connections.

Be Genuine

The first rule when it comes to networking: Don’t be fake.

Keep in mind that networking isn’t all about you. Like any good relationship, there’s give and take on both sides. If you’re ever able to help a connection out, you should. Your willingness to help will be appreciated, noticed, and also creates a positive impression to those you’re building a relationship with.

This is also important because you’ll likely need help. If you’re looking for a job or want help accomplishing a goal, your connections will be happy to help.

Establish Your Talking Points

It’s not always easy to walk up to strangers and start a conversation. While asking questions is a great way to keep productive conversations going, make sure they solicit an answer that allows for continued conversation.

Questions like “where do you work?” or “what are your hobbies?” are good starting points. When they answer, dig deeper. What do they do in their current role? What are their passions? What are they good at?

These questions will not only allow you to experience networking with new people, they will also help you expand your circle. Don’t forget, we recently covered how to improve your LinkedIn account, a tool that can be incredibly useful for networking. After meeting with someone, send them a personal note on LinkedIn and request they connect with you so you can stay in touch.

Be Prepared and Reflect After Events

If you know in advance who you’ll be meeting, do some research. See if you can find their LinkedIn profile so you know who you’re talking to and what they do.

Before and after attending an event, it’s important to take a few moments to think about your purpose or key takeaway. When you leave, what do you want to have accomplished? Do you want to find potential employment or just meet new professionals? After the event, reflect to see if you’ve accomplished these things. Creating a game plan before the event can make your experience more productive.

Tip: Keep business cards in your pocket or purse so potential connections will remember meeting you.

It’s totally normal to feel out of your comfort zone when it comes to networking, but it’s important to remember that attending events can result in lasting connections and friendships.

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