By Callie Marsalisi, news correspondent

It’s just after 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, and a massive crowd is gathered inside of The Vault, located in Boston’s Downtown Financial District. It wasn’t the bar’s usual crowd – from college students to company founders, over 300 people attended the Open Doors Party, hosted by Boston’s Startup Institute, a school that also serves as an incubator for innovation.

The dense, noisy crowd went quiet as Allan Telio, vice president of Startup Institute, started the night, explaining why the Institute holds events like these.

“[We want to build] a community that could support each other, make the employees better, make the companies better and make the city better,” Telio said.

The main focus of the Startup Institute is its eight-week programs, designed to help individuals who want to develop skills and confidence to make a splash in the world of startups. Christine Zimmerman, the Institute’s content marketing manager, emphasized the importance of making connections.

“Networking is the single best strategy for finding your way to a job you love,” Zimmerman said. “The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 70 percent of jobs are found through networking; in the startup ecosystem, this number is probably a lot higher.”

Zimmerman went on to explain how events like the Open Doors Party can be particularly helpful for undergraduates.

“College students should start networking now – getting out and talking to people to build relationships and to learn about the many possibilities for their careers,” she said. “Find out what you’re interested in, and then go and find the people who are doing that job. Figure out how they got there and what they do every day. Ask them to introduce you to more people. Show gratitude and close the feedback loop, continuing to reach out and share updates to stay on their radars. When graduation rolls around, you’ll be glad to have a network beyond your university.”

Brandon Hanks, a Startup Institute alumnus who joined in 2014, echoed Zimmerman’s sentiment. He emphasized the importance of these events that allow individuals to make connections in their community.

A job applicant who relies solely on sending out their résumé, he said, can become “a needle in a haystack., but when you get out and meet people and you get a chance to show your passion … I think that goes so much farther than an HR person clicking through 4,000 emails.”

For some, networking can feel like a vicious cycle:  being unable to meet people in their field because they don’t know anyone in their field. In this case, attending events like the Open Doors Party can be helpful, because it allows attendees to meet a wide variety of people in a more comfortable, casual setting, according to Hanks.

When asked what he loved about the Startup Institute in Boston, Hanks talked about the individuals who had made his experience worthwhile.

“It’s full of interesting and energetic people,” Hanks said. “Every single person who’s ever been involved with it has such a unique and interesting and amazing story … There’s so much energy about it; I love it.”

As more and more people filed into the tight space, Zimmerman remarked that Boston’s startup community is “a tight-knit group of passionate people.”

“I love working for Startup Institute because I get to help awesome, talented people build skills and network their way into the startup scene,” Zimmerman said. “Our alumni, instructors and hiring partners are always connecting with one another and sharing new resources and opportunities with our students. It’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of such a special community.”

Events like the Startup Institute’s Open Doors Party provide more than an opportunity for socialization; they give everyone in attendance a chance to meet like-minded, creative, intelligent people, people who could one day provide the support they need to start their own venture.

After all, as one participant pointed out, “Even Christopher Columbus needed investors to do what he did.”

Photo by Callie Marsalisi