Networking and making connections can happen in many places – class, student organizations, work, 1:1 outreach, or at events.

Typical event settings for networking may include a career trek, a career fair, a networking event, guest speakers, trainings, and conferences. However, networking happens at all the places you would typically make a new connection anyway – weddings, ball games, neighborhood potluck, or even at the bus stop on your commute.   

Use the tips below to thrive in group networking situations. 


Prepare Beforehand

  • Create an introduction – a quick highlight of yourself and your purpose that you will share with the new people you meet. This introduction sets the stage for why someone would be interested in learning more about you. 

  • Decide if you need a resume for the type of event (i.g. Career fair, hiring event). If yes, print out a few copies and have them ready to go in a padfolio or nice folder. 

  • Decide upon your goals – meet and follow up with 2 new people? Learn more about a particular field or idea? Pitch yourself to a recruiter or graduate program? 

  • Scan the latest news or listen to a few podcasts to have some conversation topics ready, if needed. 

  • Prepare an ice breaker or two. Example: Tell me more about your role. What do you like about this conference so far? What two organizations have impressed you? What are your takeaways from the speaker? 

  • Eat a snack. Even if food is provided, you do not want to treat it like it is your last meal. Do not attend the event completely famished.

Events with Food

  • If there is finger food at the event, make sure to eat with your left so your right hand stays clean for shaking hands.  

  • Take reasonable portions and limit consumption of alcohol if it is offered and you are of legal age.  

  • If it is a sit-down meal, place your napkin in your lap. When you get up, place the napkin on your chair.  

  • Make sure all guests at your table are served before digging in. 

  • Let food cool down on your plate or bowl; do not blow on it. 

  • Do not talk with your mouth full. 

  • For formal events, indicate you are done by placing your fork and knife side by side on top of your plate.  

  • Mind your manners in general – treat all serving, event staff, and fellow guests politely.  


  • The first 60 seconds of a conversation with a stranger is the hardest but gets easier as you learn more about the person, their experience, and interests. Commonalities help “strangers” connect. 

  • Break the ice with a compliment and an open-ended question: Are you…? Do you...? Then ask a closed-ended question: Who? Where? Which? Then repeat with more open-ended questions.  

  • Get to know people personally as well as professionally.  

  • Take the time to introduce others.  

  • The people strongest at networking are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself. 

  • Aim for quality rather than quantity. At large functions, be content with a quality conversation with 5-7 people, who will remember you and what you spoke about the next day. 

  • When needed, take a break by approaching someone you know.  

  • Be respectful of time. Pay special attention for cues from the other person indicating that they are ready to move on. 

  • What if you are approaching a group that is already talking? Start by listening first, and then move on to appropriate questions, showing interest with comments, or sharing about yourself. The goal is to engage with the topic that the group is already addressing as opposed to interrupting or starting something new. This HBR article has some good tips on how to do this assertively. 


  • Keep a record after the event; make a list of who you’ve spoken with so you don’t forget how and when you met. 

  • When appropriate, connect on LinkedIn or other social media platforms.  

  • Say “thank you” or write. Show gratitude for a referral or information (even if there is no result from the lead) or to the host, guest speaker, or event organizer for their effort. 

  • Keep promises. If you offer to “take action”, follow-through with the promise. 

  • Keep your connections informed. Share good news, success stories, resources, and information with your network. 


Student Testimonials

“I went into the Career Fair freshmen year with no expectation for hiring but an expectation to make connections. I ended up standing out more than I thought and then through LinkedIn connections with the organizations, I was able to do informational interviews, learn more about the field, and got opportunities the following year.”  – Meg 

“Make networking fun – learn from others and build connections!  The relationships you build during your internship will allow you to thrive and grow, while creating a strong support system.” – Veronica, Intern at Northwestern Mutual 

“Identifying colleagues in your organization who are in your corner is extremely helpful for building a network. Use them to find others to informational interview, shadow, or work with. Remember things they tell you about themselves and their work, then bring it up next time you see them. This can be pets, children, even renovation projects. Quality is better than quantity in these cases, and establishing meaningful relationships with colleagues can get you a long way.” – Carmela, Intern at UI Digital Archives and Publishing 

Find Networking Events

Sustainability Career Trek

Career Treks

Treks are great opportunities for students and employers to network, discuss internship and full-time job opportunities, and for students to learn about the company's environment, day-to-day operations, and the hiring process and timeline.

Engineering Career Fair

Career Fairs

Each semester, the Career Center offers a variety of career fairs to facilitate student and employer networking. These fairs are a great way to meet with and learn about several employers in your field of interest all in one place.

Stanley Open House

University of Iowa Events Calendar

The University of Iowa has plenty of events hosted on or near campus daily. Campus-sponsored events are good opportunities to make connections with other students, organizations, faculty, and employers.