Be vigilant about resume typos. Read your audience. Say thank you. Ask, ask, ask.
Four members of the Board of Advisors’ Student Success Working Group dispensed hard-earned wisdom about networking Wednesday, October 18, to Emerson students who had questions about making connections and finding a job after graduation. Afterward students, many of whom were the first in their families to go to college, were able to put what they learned to work, networking with Advisors and each other.
“Every job I’ve had was found by networking,” said Catherine Peterson, executive director of nonprofit arts service organization ArtsBoston, who has held a number of arts administration positions.
Peterson was joined in the Max Mutchnick Campus Center’s Multipurpose Room by fellow Advisors Phyllis Allen P’13, P’14, a retired podiatrist, business owner, and current hospital chaplain; David Breen ’78, principal designer and founder of event design/management company VDA Productions; and Joshua Wachs ’87, partner and advisor to digital consultants Echo & Co. and founder of a custom database development and consulting company. The panel was moderated by Michelle Gaseau, Emerson’s director of media relations. The panel was held during an afternoon of “Industry Insiders” sessions for students led by Advisors.
The students who came to hear tips and advice had various levels of networking experience, and came with a range of questions for the Advisors.
One student, who was brought up in Russia, noting the differences between the two cultures in terms of striking up conversations with strangers, asked for advice on engaging people. It’s not considered unusual here, said Wachs, who complimented the student on his poise and told him he’s probably better at it than he thinks.
Another student shared his networking success story. While working for a Worcester, Massachusetts city councilor, he struck up conversations with various state representatives at a local meeting, and eventually got a lead on a State House internship next semester.
Marina Gatinho ’21, a transfer student from Miami Dade College, was attending her first formal networking event, though she said she tends to network spontaneously when she’s out and about.
She wanted to know if it was O.K. to ask a potential connection out to lunch or dinner to talk about job leads or industry topics. (By all means ask them out to coffee, panelists said. Possibly lunch if the connection is strong. Dinner only if you know each other well.)
Gatinho, a Media Arts Production major, said afterward that she got a lot out of the panel.
“It’s good receiving advice from professionals that went to Emerson especially,” she said. “It kind of gives me a sense of how great Emerson is.”
Antonio Weathers ’20, a first-generation Writing, Literature and Publishing major and aspiring poet, has had networking opportunities through The Dignity Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that he’s done work for.
Weathers took copious notes on the panelists’ advice, as well as on the panelists themselves, because in networking, it’s important to learn about others, he said.
“It was informative,” he said of the event. “It’s interesting to see people who have gone through my experiences who are successful, not with the same interests [as me], but in the prospect of wanting to be successful.”
Tips from the Pros:
What is networking?: “Networking is an ask.” (Allen) “The answer is no if you don’t ask.” (Breen)
On authenticity: “[Ask] how do you stay real and not just say, ‘These are my talking points and this is what I want to say,’ because people will see through that …. You will lose the audience because you’re not really engaging them on a personal level.” (Breen)
On resumes and elevator pitches: “Being writers, you know it doesn’t come the first time. It needs to be refined. I have a group of buddies I have look at my resume … I am an absolute stickler for typos in resumes.” (Peterson)
On feeling sheepish about networking: “If you’re looking for a job or a connection, you’re not looking for a handout. Hopefully, if they’re giving you a job, it’s because you have a service you can offer.” (Wachs)
After networking: “Always say thanks [in person, in writing, or over email]… You’ll stand out in that respect.” (Allen)
Let people know about connections you made through them: “If you send me a note saying, ‘Thanks so much for that connection, I reached out to Fred… Even if it’s a quick email, I think cool, I was able to do some good. That’s a do-good feeling you’ve imparted on me that I’m now going to remember.” (Breen)
It’s a two-way street: “Networking is you thinking about what you need, and thinking about what you have to give the person you’re talking to.” (Peterson)
Pay attention: “As best you can, read your audience. [Ask yourself] are they engaged, are they interested, how much do I push?” (Wachs)