Networking 101

Mentoring and networking events have value in that they provide a learning and social opportunity. However the most important takeaways stem from the informational interviews, which can lead to internships or jobs.  We all know how hard it is to break away from your huddle of friends, but if you want to find an ‘in’ within the advertising industry, you have to get out there.

At the AdFed Spill the Wine Mentorship event, I was handed a list of descriptions of each professional mentor.  Because I was with my creative focused friends, I was forced to break away and seek out the account round tables to suit my interests. I put on my game face and made it a goal to find one mentor that really captivated my attention to meet for an informational interview in the future.

This mentor was articulate, inspiring, and gave a great perspective. You have to jump right in and show that while you are listening and processing the fast paced advice, you are also interested in learning more about what he or she does.  Willingness to learn in this industry is key.  Be a sponge.

After our chat, I asked for her business card.  Don’t be surprised if he or she doesn’t have one with them.  Always ask for their email anyway, even if you have to jot it down in your phone.  It doesn’t hurt to give them your card, but you need to make the initiative to contact them ASAP.

Follow up immediately! It could be a personalized LinkedIn invite, email, or both. If you are shooting to set up an informational interview, invite them to coffee near their workplace or bring the coffee to them.  Make it as easy as possible.  Who doesn’t love a little free bou or bucks?

It may take months to set up a coffee date – true life.  But don’t give up.  Once you have a date set up, take the time to prepare. If he or she mentioned any books or websites, be sure to do your homework! In my case, she mentioned, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.”  By preparing, I was able to ask insightful questions that made her pause and say, “Wow, that was a really great question.”  Be original, memorable, and enthusiastic.

Here are a few questions:
What do you look for in students?
What can make or break an interview in your opinion?
How do I position myself as a leader who has ideas in a client meeting where I am the most junior person in the team?
How do you define your success?

If everything goes well in the informational interview, by the end he or she will be willing and interested in sharing their network with you, or even looking over your resume.  This is a good sign they see your potential!

Last but not least, always be gracious of their valuable time.  Send them a hand written thank you note, it will mean a lot more than an email.

One key takeaway from this informational interview was that you must always be seeking extra work in the real world and see it as a learning opportunity.  Advertising students, like myself, need to position networking in a similar light, and you must get the motivation from within yourself. Your professors will not hold you accountable for it.  You need to have the willingness to learn.  The more you integrate info interviews into your life, the less scary they will seem and you will see the benefits unfold.  Good luck!




     Written By: Ashley Gilles

     University of Minnesota: Journalism & Adversiting

     Brand Ambassador

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