20 Tips for Networking and Navigating a Conference

By: Lauren Creamer

Conferences can be intimidating – whether you’ve been to them in the past or not. Here are some fool proof tips for conference newbies and veterans alike.

Know your audience. What type of conference is it? Who will be there? Professionals? Peers? Students?

Make a hit list. Who do you want to connect with? Note any presenters or attendees that you really want to connect with and make them a priority.

Bring business cards (and have a resume waiting in the wings). It is not always appropriate to go doling out your resume to everyone you meet – but business cards are universally welcome in a conference setting. Don’t have any? Try Vista Print – you can order 250 for the price of shipping. Pick a clean, minimalist design and get printing. BUT, if someone asks for your resume, be prepared to share a hard copy or send it via email.

Don’t carry anything in your hands (if you need to have anything with you, it should be in a bag). If you’re loaded with stuff it might be awkward to shake hands or converse with people. It may also make you seem closed off or busy.

Focus on the other person. This isn’t about you. It’s about them. So make the other person feel as if you’re genuinely interested (and you should be!). Ask them questions, let the conversation flow.

Be yourself! You’re trying to build relationships with people at organizations that make sense for you. It’s important to be authentic – you want to make in roads at places that are a good fit.

Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up. Connect with presenters and attendees alike on LinkedIn. Follow them on Twitter. Send a “thank you for chatting” email post-conference.

At a break point or have some down time? Don’t take out your phone and surf the web! Interact. If everyone was sitting on their phones the whole time, no one would make connections.

See someone hanging out alone? Go over and say hi. If you’re in a group and you see someone alone, ask them to join. Either way, you’re making someone feel included and welcome.

Go to the pre-prescribed social activities: fun run, city outing, etc. This is a no-brainer! Structured fun = easy networking opportunity.

Making eye contact and smiling is always a good move. It makes you seem approachable and welcoming. Who doesn’t want to know someone who is approachable and welcoming?

Does the conference have an app? Can you talk to other attendees on it? Use it. You may be able to make connections through the app and then meet-up in-person, removing some of the anxiety. Same goes for a Twitter hashtag – chat with people through this, follow them, and then meet in-person.

Dress for the occasion. Ask around to see what the conference vibe is – sometimes it’s OK to wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Most of the time it’s not. Do your homework and dress the part.

Practice your handshake. No dead-fish hands! No vice grips! Nice and firm does the trick.

Went alone? Find a conference buddy and tag team. You can play off each other when networking and it may ease your anxiety.

If you have the time to prepare, submit a presentation/talk/poster – people will come to you!

Take breaks to rest and re-energize. You know yourself best. Need a 2 PM nap? Take it. Need to have some alone time before a night on the town? Do it.

PACK SNACKS. I cannot stress this enough. Being hangry at a conference is the absolute worst.

Wear comfortable shoes (but still dressy). You end up standing and walking more than you think you will, so wearing the right shoes is critical.

Relax. Take a deep breath. And go for it. What do you have to lose? If you don’t make any connections, you’re right back where you started. But I guarantee you, if you utilize these tips, you will do some awesome networking.

Discovering Your Strengths

By: Janel Juba

In order to develop a career that really suits you, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of your key strengths. Your strengths are your talents/gifts that come naturally and easily to you. There are many assessments you can take to help find your personal strengths. The one I recommend is “StrengthsFinder”, which can be accessed online. This assessment helps you identify your top five strengths.

I took the StrengthsFinder three years ago and the results for my top five strengths were:

Futuristic– able to vision what could be and who cherishes those visions.
Individualization– can observe each person’s style, motivation, how each think/ build relationships.
Restorative– enjoys solving problems.
Ideation– fascinated by ideas.
Belief– family-oriented, spiritual, values responsibility and high ethics personally and others.

I wasn’t surprised by these results as I am a thinker, researcher, helper, and work well with ideas. Once you assess your strengths, it’s important to understand what they mean. I am good at problem-solving and work well with ideas because of my strengths, therefore this way of thinking comes naturally to me. Remember, successful people focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses…

Here are three tips you may want to consider as you discover your strengths:

1. Seek five people who know you well and ask them to provide feedback about a time when you were at your best. Once you have gathered feedback, look for commonalities in their stories. Be sure to create a list of the themes and examples to what they suggest about your strengths.

2. Take a few strength’s assessments and be mindful of common themes. Also, watch for signs of excitement and be open-minded to explore new roles.

3. Once you identify your strengths, be creative when you describe them. Try to avoid common words like “organized” or “dedicated”. Instead, create a term that captures your specific strength like “supporter” or “investigator”.

You will be satisfied working in a career that allows you to apply your strengths daily. Your approach will be unique, this will enable you to make an important influence to your industry. Working from your strengths will help you be far more productive, get better results, contribute more value, attract higher compensation, enjoy your work, and experience greater fulfillment!

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle” (Napoleon Hill).
Photo credit: www.thestrengthsinitiative.com
Strengths Resource: www.gallupstrengthscenter.com

Cover Letters: Why and How.

By: Caitlin Brison

Cover letters…does anyone actually read these? Why, yes! Many do! While we cannot predict which hiring managers read cover letters and which do not, we do know for certain that those that read them really care! Hiring managers like a competitive application and most of them will read your cover letter after browsing your resume. So…when in doubt, write a cover letter.

Plain and simple, cover letters get interviews. They tell the reader, “Hey! I think it’s a superb idea that you call me in for an interview because I have read the job description, researched your company, and thought about how my education, experience, strengths and skills could contribute to all the super cool things you are doing.” Who wouldn’t want to talk more to that candidate? It shows you care – and they care that you care. Make sense?

If you’re still unsure, read through these top 10 tips and maybe it’ll make more sense:

1. Don’t restate your resume. They already read that.
2. You’re not bragging, you’re stating the facts. You’re a student at Wentworth, you must be really good at a few things. What are they? And you’re probably curious to learn more about other things, so talk about that, too.
3. Tell a story! Have you always dreamed of working here? Have you worked really hard to get to where you are? Do you spend your free time doing similar things? Stories draw readers in and build connections.
4. Highlight your strengths! (Extra points for using the job description to see what they’re looking for) Did your group projects or summer jobs teach you something about collaboration, communication, and organization? Perfect! Tell me more.
5. Be honest, but don’t apologize for a lack of experience. We all start somewhere and it’s ok to not have every skill they want. No need to inflate or deflate! Speak truthfully about your strengths and how you plan to develop more.
6. Be professional, not necessarily formal. This is certainly an opportunity to showcase your ability to write professionally and maturely, but show some personality! Avoid sterile and stuffy language.
7. Show….and sometimes tell! Instead of writing, “I am a good problem solver,” you can write, “I prefer to approach obstacles with a positive attitude as I have found that persistence and creative thinking usually prevail. My professors have commended me for my curiosity and dedication to acquiring and applying new knowledge when confronted with a problem to be solved.”
8. Make it targeted, not generic! Hiring managers can smell this a mile away. And they don’t like it. Use the job description to write the letter. No need to start from scratch each time, but always tailor it to the job description.
9. Format. There is a set framework for cover letters. It’s best to follow it. Be creative with the content, not format.
10. Edit! Read and re-read before you submit. Your advisor can read it! A friend can, too!

A well-crafted cover letter is your golden ticket to an interview. Write and submit them as often as you can! The more you write, the more interviews you get.

Find more tips here: https://wit.edu/coopsandcareers/cooperative-education/co-op-resources

Schedule an appointment with your advisor to review your resume and cover letters by stopping by the front desk or calling 617 989 4101.

How to answer the “greatest weakness” question.

By: Becky Smith

Sometimes a painful moment arises in an interview: My pulse is racing, my palms are sweaty, and my grasp on my vocabulary is slipping. Now you want me to talk about my greatest weakness? Really?

Why do hiring managers ask about weaknesses, anyway?

Employers want to know what strengths you can contribute, and what you could do better.
Prior to the interview, hiring managers have only read about you. The interview is their chance to meet you and evaluate what you could provide in the role for which you are interviewing. Your skills, interests and experience are part of the picture, but they also want to know what you are working on improving or learning.

They want to know how you perceive and overcome challenges. It’s a way to get to know you as a person!

Experienced recruiters and managers know that work is called work because it can be challenging!
You interviewers are not toying with you. They are not trying to trick you. They want you to talk about your greatest weakness because it gives them an opportunity to observe a few things about you: how you perceive challenges, how you problem solve, and your capacity to learn from your mistakes.

So…. Don’t just choose any weakness. Be prepared with an example that demonstrates growth.

Weaknesses don’t just go away. They may stick around forever. But we can develop strategies to overcome them so that they diminish little by little!

What is a weakness that you possess, that you can manage now, and that used to pose a much more significant barrier to your success? Use it to craft a story that is one part honesty, and one part success!

What is a weakness that embarrasses you or that you would have a hard time expressing positively? Do NOT share this one. (All are uncomfortable to a certain extent but some are things we really don’t want to talk about!)

How: Name the weakness. Briefly describe how it affects your performance at work or at school in the present. Briefly describe how it was in the past — either at jobs or in your school work — and tell your interviewer what you do to manage your weakness.

For example:

[Name the weakness and how it affects you in the present] I am shy when I need to speak in public or when I am meeting new people. I have worked on this shyness at Wentworth, where I have done group projects every semester with my classmates and we have presented our results in front of classrooms.

[The past] A couple of years ago I was so shy that I didn’t ask any questions or share ideas, and I tried to completely avoid attention. This made it difficult for me to work on group projects at school because I had a hard time expressing my ideas and sometimes I would be slow to communicate about important updates or changes that my group needed to be aware of.

[What you have learned/your strategies] I really just needed practice. Now when I feel stopped by my shyness, I remind myself how important it is to keep communicating so the work can move forward. That motivates me. I have also learned that it is helpful to prepare in advance for public speaking.

Disclosing a weakness will never be 100% comfortable. But prepare for it. You will impress yourself and others.

Knowing your weakness makes you a stronger team member and your ability to express it is a strength that will make you stand out as an especially self-aware job candidate. By talking articulately about a weakness, you will provide a glimpse of who you really are as a human being – and hiring managers make time to meet with you because they want this glimpse! Work with your Co-op Advisor for help getting started or to get feedback on a weakness you are preparing to discuss.