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By this point you have probably heard (more times than you can count) that networking is a vital ingredient to job searching and advancing one’s career; it is consistently reported that 4 of 5 people land jobs through networking. Like fruit or vegetables, networking is one of those things that comes is different varieties, and people either like it or hate it. One of the more common varieties is to attend a networking event (or social gathering of professionals). Unless you’re an extrovert, this type of networking can provoke much anxiety. Here are a few tips I’ve put together to help you through this and help ensure you make the most of any networking event.
1. Do your prep work and know what type of people will be in attendance. Make note of who the event organizers are so you can thank them at the event. (note: they are usually among the most connected people at the event). Before you leave the event, be sure to thank them and express how much you enjoyed the event.
2. Dress the part! Make note of the venue and expected attire. If not noted, you should dress in business-casual attire (minimum) – preferably professional attire. First impressions are key…so it is up to you how you want to be perceived.
3. Think of about five conversation starters or opening lines. It doesn’t have to be deep – weather, sports, local news, reasons for being there, etc. Read the new so you can be up-to-speed on current events and potential conversation topics relevant to the event or who will be in attendance.
4. Arrive on time. You can meet the organizers and work a smaller crowd. Allow for people to arrive and get settled at the event before approaching them. Positioning yourself in high traffic areas can sometimes help initiate conversations. If you are not as comfortable approaching small groups of people, feel free to approach individuals directly. In addition, if you are feeling intimidated about the event, feel free to bring a wingman or wingwoman for support; just don’t spend the entire evening with them (remember this is a networking event!). Lastly, try to not talk to the same two people the whole night (even if it feels more comfortable). You can always follow-up after the event to engage more and possibly meet over coffee or for an informational interview.
5. Focus on the people, not the food. It’s difficult to shake hands and continue conversations when your hands and mouth are always full. Drink in moderation. No one wants to hear you slur your story about your job search over your fifth glass of pinot.
6. Be assertive. “Hello, my name is…” Introduce yourself and start conversations. Say something after your name to help lead the conversation. “Hi, I’m Darren Kaltved, career counselor for the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and a new member of XYZ. Are you a current XYZ member? If so, how long have you been involved with the group?” To help keep the conversation going, try to focus on things you both have in common or know the same thing about. Be sure to exhibit active listening skills and ask questions (be engaged in the conversation)…remember that it isn’t always about you!
7. Hand out your business card to those you shared a conversation with, but don’t fling them out like flyers. Resumes are also good to have on-hand. One tidbit of advice is to include your LinkedIn Profile link on your business card. Also, don’t forget to request a business card from those you spoke with. After the conversation, you can make a few notes on the back of the card to help you remember personal insights they shared during the conversation.
8. Following the event, provide yourself a 48-hour window to follow up with your “new” networking contacts. Send a personal email (see notes on the back of the business card – try to personalize the message based on what you conversed about). Request a follow-up meeting (maybe over coffee or at their place of employment) and don’t forget to send a LinkedIn request. When sending the request, I recommend personalizing the message indicating when and where you met, and that you would like to add them to your professional network.
Remember, you simply are meeting people, making connections, and creating relationships….even if you are enjoying the food and drinks. A quality network is a crucial part of your career development and job search process.
Keith Ferrazzi, professional relationship development expert, once said, “If you want to transform your life, you need the help of others – powerful relationships with people who give you support and access, and push you to exceed your potential.” Below are 4 key videos I highly recommend regarding the topic of “Networking.” These videos will walk you through the basics of establishing a strong professional network. Enjoy!
Do you ever find yourself wondering how or when to effectively network? Well, here are five ways you can approach networking on a regular basis without having to take too much time away from your busy schedule; and at the same time make it fun!
1. Attend a Yoga Class or Fitness Center
Whether you are looking to get a jump start on a New Year’s resolution or looking to strengthen your Warrior or Crescent Moon poses, exercising can help unite your spirit, mind and body, and create an atmosphere for great networking and conversation. These comforting and relaxing environments create happiness…and when people are happy, they want to share with everyone. So take the opportunity to share your story…and maybe, just maybe, one of your classmates might just know the right person or opportunity you’ve been looking for.
2. Ride the Bus
If you have ever taken a ride on the #16 Bus on-campus or any metro bus for that matter, you know how crowded it can sometimes be. We all know of folks who are avid bus-goers, but did you know that their bus-mates are in some ways considered acquaintances? It is true, the more you ride the bus the greater the likelihood that you will strike up a conversation with some random stranger who just might have insight to a potential career opportunity. So, instead of hoping your car will start or being able to afford gas this week, take the bus and an opportunity may be waiting onboard.
3. Dress up, grab your laptop and head to the nearest Starbucks
Okay…you may be asking yourself…why should I break out my professional attire and head to the nearest coffee shop? Well…believe it or not, looking the part of a business professional that is taking the time to enjoy a grande, non-fat, no-whip, white chocolate mocha while perusing the Internet for your next job may just blend itself into a random conversation with a Starbucks frequent-club member who would be willing to offer some direction regarding your next career move. Don’t be shy…strike up a conversation and you never know where it might lead.
4. Attend a Social Gathering (i.e. Holiday Party)
The holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family; a time that is filled with holiday cheer, good food, and an opportunity for you to spread the joy of your career wishes. When striking up a conversation with Uncle Fred or your friend Betsy, ask them who they know related to your area of interest. If they happen to not know anyone in that area, my guess is that they will send you Cousin “the one who knows everybody” Vinny. So put on your best holiday sweater, grab a glass of some potent eggnog and share your goals and aspirations with those close to you. Happy Holidays!
5. Call Mom and Grandma
What is the one thing that Mom and Grandma have in common (besides the obvious)? The answer is they thoroughly enjoy talking and telling stories about their kids and grandkids. So give your Mom and/or Grandma a call, maybe even pay them a visit and tell them your story. You will be amazed how far they would be willing to go in order to help out their precious son or daughter. Whether it is at the fore mentioned yoga class, grocery store, book club or at the shopping mall…they both have this innate ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone; and believe it or not…it works. Oh, and don’t forget to send them flowers after they help you land an interview…just make sure you go to the interview alone!