As a Sahl intern, we are encouraged to attend two networking events. There are local events monthly through the Youth Professionals Club that interns can attend, or if we hear of different events we can attend those as well. In high school, I did volunteer work with my local Chamber of Commerce and many of my family members are involved with the organization. So when I heard that the chamber was hosting a happy hour networking event, I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only fulfill my intern requirement, but also get the chance to actually attend a networking event instead of just working for them like I did in high school.
A Chamber of Commerce is an association that represents, promotes and protects local businesses. This is accomplished by getting local businesses in touch with each other by sponsoring a variety of networking events and hosting informational seminars with expert speakers who promote ways to help the businesses improve.
Personally, attending networking events is not something that I seek out or particularly enjoy (spending an evening making small talk is an introvert’s personal nightmare), but attending a function at a local bar’s happy hour seemed less daunting and a good way to get my feet wet. The atmosphere was very relaxed with everyone being dressed in business casual attire, thereby making the event seem much less intimidating. In attendance were approximately twenty local businesspeople, which comprised of a variety of interesting business owners and entrepreneurs.
The first thing I noticed, being the only student in attendance, was the lack of any of my peers. Being younger than everyone else, I stood out for two reasons: first, because some of the members questioned if I was even old enough to be at a bar, and second, because I was a new face that did not belong to any particular organization. Many of the members were very interested to hear about my current college experience, my intern involvement with Sahl, and what I plan to do after graduation. Plus, many of the members I spoke with took the opportunity to also reminisce about their own glory days in college, as well as share several humorous stories.
The event turned out to be particularly worthwhile for me because I was able to reconnect with my adviser I worked for at the chamber. Upon learning about my college studies and current internship experience at Sahl, she told me to drop off my resume for a possible summer internship position. I guess that is networking paying off!
Networking at college fairs or events that many college students attend can be overwhelming and it is difficult to get yourself noticed. At this particular event, I had no issues meeting a variety of business owners and entrepreneurs. That being said, my advice to fellow college-aged students looking for networking opportunities would be to check out your local community’s chamber of commerce and attend their events. You never know what may come out of it!