Michaela Yarnell, UVM alum (’14) and Legislative Aide for Bernie Sanders, told us she would “not be where [she is] today without networking.” Yarnell began in the Sanders’ office as an intern and successfully moved up to her current position by networking with permanent staff.
The key to networking, according to Yarnell, is “perfecting your elevator speech.” Whether you’re attending a networking event, asking for an informational interview or actually bump into someone in an elevator, be prepared to offer “a succinct and clear thirty-second speech about yourself and your strengths.”
Michaela also recommends having a couple of questions at the ready. Her favorites are: “What are one or two things you know now that you wish you knew when you were an undergrad?” and “Can you tell me about a project you’re working on that would give me a sense of your day-to-day work?” She also stressed the importance of doing some research beforehand, so you’ve got some specific and relevant questions.
Of course, not everyone you meet is someone you’ll want to keep in touch with, but when you do find someone you want to connect with, ask for an informational interview. “People like to talk about themselves,” Michaela notes, so don’t be afraid to ask. When they agree, “go in armed with good questions and then give the interviewer the floor.” And always be sure to follow up! “Don’t just email when you need something, find ways to stay in touch creatively and keep a steady drum beat of communication.”
Ultimately, networking is about creating personal relationships, so it’s important to connect well, and to walk away from the networking conversation with some action items or a new understanding of how you’ll move closer towards your goals.