Networking — Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

Two people talk at a career fair

Last week, Polytechnic campus students learned networking techniques and strategies from Toni Cortright, University Relations Manager at Quicken Loans. The event was hosted by Career and Professional Development Services, The Polytechnic School and the Fulton Schools Career Center.

Toni assured students who might be nervous or apprehensive about the idea of networking that they had lots of company. The fear of meeting others is actually quite common.

To help combat those fears, students learned several networking tips:

  • It is important to know the expected attire for an event so that you will be dressed appropriately.
  • Put your nametag on your right side, so that it will be in plain view when you are shaking hands.
  • Have a second pair of eyes check your clothing before you leave (to see if something needs to be brushed off or a tag needs to be removed, etc.).
  • It is normal to be nervous. Bring tissues to take care of sweaty palms and always have breath mints.
  • If you have business cards, they are easy to reach from your left pocket.
  • Make sure that your handshake is firm – not too hard and not limp. A few quick shakes will do the trick. Be careful not to make the handshake too long.
  • When introducing yourself, say your first and last name (clearly) and ask an open-ended question.
  • The words you say are only 7 percent of total communication. How you are speaking and your body language have a greater impact. Be “open” when speaking to others (no hands crossed over your chest). If you are conversing with someone, but would like others to join you, do not stand face-to-face. Stand at an angle to each other and leave an open space for another person to join you.
  • Many people talk with their hands. Be careful not to stand too close to others.
  • When selecting food, choose things that will be easy to eat and not stick to your clothes. A good rule to follow is to select something that you could eat by holding it in one hand.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol! You want to make sure that you are in control of your behavior. No one will think less of you if you choose not to drink alcohol at all. Remember why you are there: to present yourself as a professional.
  • Everyone should be using LinkedIn. This is how many recruiters find talent. Business cards can easily get misplaced. Send a LinkedIn request the day after meeting someone with a note reminding them of where you met. (You might even want to step outside the room and write down the name so that you will remember.) If you can do this quickly, you might even ask if you could connect right then and there. Pull out your phone, have that LinkedIn App ready and connect.
  • Keep your cell phone shut off and out of sight. Even having it on vibrate can be distracting.
  • Networking conversations should remain professional. Keep the topics related to business. People love to talk about themselves. It is appropriate to ask recruiters about their career paths and what they like about the company.
  • Your goals should be to learn something about everyone you meet and to make a positive impact on others.


Toni challenged the students to mingle with each other. They had to learn two things about at least two other people. There were introductions, handshakes and animated conversations accompanied by lots of smiles.

The students who attended did a great job applying what they learned.


Joyce Donahue is a certified career counselor in the Fultn Schools Career Center.