Making the right connections in school can set you up for amazing job opportunities. Even if you are a first or second year and up to your ears in schoolwork, you should still be out there at events like Optometry’s Meeting and AOA+, to help integrate yourself into the professional setting. But if you are looking to truly network and score potential opportunities, just showing up is not enough! Here are a few tips for effectively networking as a student.
Be Prepared: There is always an itinerary, and it is always available ahead of time, barring minor changes, so that you have an idea of where to go and what to do. Review the itinerary and the local weather forecast before you pack so that you know what to bring-then check again when you are planning your day to make sure that you don’t miss mandatory events.
Dress Comfortably but Professionally: Unless you are attending a gala, you cannot go wrong with business casual for an optometry event. Keep in mind that exhibit halls involve a lot of walking. If you’re wearing fancy shoes, make sure to grab a pair of simple, comfortable footwear that is compatible with your outfit. Ladies, simple black flats are great for meetings and clinic-so invest in some!
Be Professional: These are simple things like arriving to lectures on time (or better yet, ahead of time), being attentive and turning your phone to silent. It’s also important to watch your alcohol consumption at a social event or open bar. While indulging in a beer or glass of wine is not bad, you should stay well below your limits. If you aren’t sure of your limits, don’t drink. If you know that you are buzzed, or drunk, excuse yourself and ask a friend to walk you back to your home or hotel room.
Take Notes: Conventions are full of people, opportunities, business cards and free, awesome goodies to enjoy! Unless your memory is extremely sharp, take a moment to write a few details about the people you speak with-especially if you want to keep in touch! The easiest thing to do is to jot a few notes directly on an individual’s business cards to ensure that you stay in touch and avoid embarrassing mix-ups. You can even get your own business cards for free from the AOA! Click here to order!
Follow Up: This is a crucial step to networking and one that is often missed by students. We come home, throw the business cards in an ever-growing pile, and get busy trying to catch up on schoolwork. Set aside time after the meeting to shoot a quick e-mail to doctors or representatives that you want to get in touch with, thanking them for their time, and opening up conversation about your topic of interest. Ask to add them to your professional networks like LinkedIn so that you can keep in touch until you graduate.
Attending meetings is the first step, but making that extra effort to interact in the professional setting is what will set you apart from your classmates and grant you access to lucrative opportunities upon graduation. Optometry’s Meeting and AOA+ in June can give you the opportunity to test out these tips! Do you have any networking pearls for your fellow students? Do you think adding professional contacts on Facebook is a good idea? Share your opinions and tips in the comment section below!