You are a mix tape (networking, y’all!)

by Ross Wade, Elon University School of COM career guy

Last Friday was the iMedia students’ “Day of Professional Development”, and it was a great time and wonderful learning opportunity! Mad props to Brittany Cooper (NMS), Edwin Jeffords (United Way of the Greater Triangle), Katie Ruoff (Nike), Brandon Pierce and Danielle Hatfield (Experience Farm), and Tiffany Lawrence and Shannon Hill of Capstrat for sharing their expertise and time for networking and student mock interviews. I can’t forget our incredible iMedia alums; Brad Mu (Free Range Studios), Nicole Wyche (Ingnite Social Media), and Jenna Wagner (SPEED); for sharing their experiences and lessons learned from the “real world”. The day consisted of a presentation on networking (more about that later), panel, breakout sessions, and mock interviews.

I did the presentation on networking, and wanted to frame it in a way that was universal and fun…and nothing is more universal and fun than an old skool mix tape!

All of who you are is made up of your experiences, the people most meaningful to you, who and what you believe in, and what you care about.  You are a mix tape. Networking helps you improve the quality of your mix tape by collaborating with professionals…and if they like what they hear, they’ll share your mix with others…because everyone likes a good mix.

Steps for networking (and making a KILLER mix tape):

1. What is your theme? Booty jam mix? Break-up mix? Guilty pleasures mix?

Just as you would create a theme for a mix tape, you need to come up with your professional theme for networking. Instead of researching songs for your mix, you are researching stories and an identity to share with others. Who are you as a professional? What do you care about? What experiences do you have? How is all of this being communicated via social media, person-to-person communications, etc.?

With any good mix tape you have your good ole stand-by’s, but you also need to do some research to find new artists and songs. You need to do this kind of professional research on yourself as well. What are you missing? Do you need more experience? Do you really know as much  about your field as you think?

Knowing your good professional stories (aka  stand-by songs) and finding ways to create new professional stories (aka new songs) will help you create a strategy for marketing yourself and talking about yourself with professionals (just like creating your song list for your KILLER mix tape).

2. Share your mix, yo!

Back in the day, I had my mix tape crew. We always exchanged mixes…it was almost competitive – ha! As you learn what you want professionally and know how you are going to market yourself, be sure to share this with your network. Send an email to your network letting them know you are graduating and looking for a job, what you are looking for and where, and attach your resume. People want to help, they just need to know how.

The best way to share your stories with new folks and learn about ways to improve your experience is to talk to other professionals via info meetings! Do your research and find cool companies doing things you care about – reach out to folks working there and ask good questions…and then stay connected! Creating these new relationships can really increase your chance of landing a job. Did you know that simply applying to a job has about a 20% success rate, but knowing someone there has an 80% success rate?!

Remember…networking is all about sharing and helping. Networking is NOT about taking advantage of others. So, don’t go crazy, don’t freak out, just focus on creating your killer mix tape and sharing it with others!

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