Approach Parents’ Weekend as a Networking Opportunity
College Parents’ Weekends have come a long way since the 1990s. These weekends are now hyper-stuffed with activities and they are no longer just for parents. They are set up for all family members: siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all invited. This brings a much bigger and more influential crowd providing a lot of ways to meet tons of people.
More than 85% of jobs and internships are found via networking. Anytime you or your college student are presented with an opportunity to meet people and genuinely connect with them, you should take advantage of it. After all, you never know who will be responsible for helping your college student land his/her next internship or post-graduation job.
The Goal of Networking During Parents’ Weekend
The goal of networking during parents’ weekend isn’t to land an interview or job. Think of it as a chance to meet people who work in a field related to the student’s passion, major or dream career. It’s the opportunity for an exchange of information between parents, students and professionals.
When you or your student meet a professional of interest, ask for the person’s contact info and permission to follow up with them the following week to ask for an informational interview. (The student should do all of the follow up, not the parent.)
Then, keep in touch with this person roughly every eight weeks, continue to build rapport and show interest. Don’t forget to add them to your LinkedIn network and hopefully they will connect you to other colleagues in their professional network.
Why is Parents’ Weekend a Great Networking Opportunity?
With more organized activities beyond tailgating and a football game, these weekends are a great opportunity for you AND your college student to network and start building relationships with relevant professionals.
- Opportunities to meet face-to-face. Lots of adults on campus means tons of professionals with a personal connection to the college. Face-to-face is always better than “meeting” via email, LinkedIn messenger, phone or Zoom.
- Plenty of opportunities to interact and connect with people in smaller groups. It’s easy to start conversations because you are sharing an interest by attending the same event. “I love a cappella music, don’t you? How many times did you see Pitch Perfect?”
- Everyone is in a socializing frame of mind. People are genuinely interested in meeting people during these weekends. Very little ice breaking is required.
- People in upper management roles are approachable. In fact, until you learn what the person does, you won’t even know s/he is in upper management.
- People in attendance are comfortable interacting with young adults. Parents (and family members) are attending the weekend because they have a student enrolled at the school. Therefore, they can relate to young adults who will soon be seeking career advice, an internship or post-graduation job.
Parent/Family Weekend Networking Do’s and Don’ts
While this weekend is a great opportunity for networking, there are some things you should not do when mingling and meeting.
- Don’t drink. Don’t curse. Don’t smoke/vape. Don’t talk about politics or about sensitive topics.
- Don’t barrage a person with tons of questions about their job. Let natural conversation flow.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen. Really listen to what others have to say.
- Don’t start a conversation by asking what a person does for a living.
- Don’t hand anyone your resume unless they ask for it!
- Don’t psych yourself out. If you know you want to meet your friend’s mother because she is the VP of Finance at a great company, settle down and act natural. Don’t view her as someone you NEED to add to your network or someone who can be very influential in your career development. Approach her just like you would approach someone whom you don’t know; your friend’s mom.
Naturally, there are things you and your college student should definitely do during parents’ weekend.
- Put yourself out there. Meet people. Meet lots of people.
- Be polite and pleasant around other adults. People enjoy talking to pleasant college students.
- Show genuine interest in the other person because it makes people feel good.
- Make a great 1st, 2nd and 3rd impression. Greet people properly and professionally and politely request an opportunity to follow up later. Actually follow up and set up an informational interview.
- After some pleasantries and small talk, do try to direct the conversation to their job so you can determine if this would be a good relevant professional connection. “I’m curious, what do you do for a living?”
- Flattery goes a long way. Comments such as, “That sounds really interesting.” Or, if you are talking to them about their career/job then “I’d love to hear more about your career/job.” “Sounds like you not only enjoy what you do but you are really good at it.”
- Share a few interesting things about yourself other than “I need an internship.” People like to talk to interesting people, not college students who ask for things too soon in the relationship.
- Get their contact information towards the end of your conversation and ask for permission to follow up.
Approaching parents’ weekend as a networking opportunity is a great way to make some professional connections, explore different careers and even discover job opportunities.