Some people can network and mingle quite easily while the rest of us struggle with trying to decide what we are going to ask, talk about, our appearance, and a myriad of other things that often times don't really impact our networking capabilities. Through my continued involvement with MAPS (a student group at CSULB), I feel I have been able to go from the "struggling networker" (ok a shy person) to a "professional networker" (well most of the time, or that is what I would like to think). Here are my tips on how to improve your networking skills:
- First impressions are very important and these can happen at any time and any place. So before you leave the house check the mirror. Did you comb your hair? Brush your teeth? Do do not have to dress like a professional (unless of course your daily activities call for this) but taking a little extra time and money to make sure you are looking you best can pay off when you bump into a PA in the market, at school or where ever. For guys looking to improve their dress I recommend checking out: http://artofmanliness.com/2011/09/22/style-tips-for-college-men/ . For the ladies I don't have a resource, sorry I am not up to date on women's fashion, and you have far to many variability in the types of things you can wear and there are not enough equations to solve for all these different variables.
- Get involved! If you are still in college, you should be involved with a Pre-PA club (notice I did not say Pre-Health Club, if your school does not have a Pre-PA club make one! And if you simple can't join the Pre-Health Club). Often times these groups have speaker that are either PAs or from PA schools. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, give a firm hand shake and let them know you are interested in becoming a PA and/or their PA program. (In addition you will hopefully, catch their attention with your mature style, and upright posture and positive welcoming body language). You can also network at PA schools information sessions/open houses. Go to Pre-PA conferences. VOLUNTEER!
- Join a PA professional group just as the AAPA or your state's organization and get involved. Call them and let them know you want to be a PA and if they have any volunteer opportunities available that you are there to help! See if the hold local dinner meetings that your could attend. Go to the AAPA conference: http://www.aapa.org/events/annual_conference.aspx or your states conference ie: http://www.capanet.org/conferences/conference/
- Make your own business card! This is what mine looked liked:
(I have a little sticky covering up my address)
- Take a risk, email, introduce yourself. If you are really shy start with becoming more active in social media and with time force yourself to talk to others. Find your niche and share ideas this will usually snowball into good things!
- FOLLOW UP!!! This is key! If you got some one's contact information use it and email them. Let them know that is was nice to meet them. If you have questions ASK!!!! (I see this all the time, I meet some Pre-PA students talk to them for a while give them my contact info and then never hear from them again. It is frustrating!) Unless the person is astronomically busy, they will most likely respond to you. If a person has helped you significantly in your journey to become a PA, keep them updated on how you are doing in your pursuit of your goal.
- A "new" form of networking- social media.... Most people have a Facebook, LinkedIn account or Twitter account or something of the sort. Make sure what you present is tasteful appropriate and positive. If you have to ask your self whether something is appropriate you should probably just not post it.
Know the right people can help you in so many ways! So get out there and start networking. Collect that contact information store in a useful convenient place and most of all USE IT!