Job Search Tip
Do you have a love/hate relationship with networking events? You know how important networking is for your job search and career success. Networking events are specifically set up so you can network and meet new people. That’s a very good thing. Yet, the thought of “working the room” and walking up to total strangers to introduce yourself makes you feel a little sick, at worst, or insincerely schmoozy, at best.
While networking events are not as instantly beneficial as say, contacting hiring managers directly, they’re still a worthwhile use of your time and you should learn how to do them well. That said, here are some vital tips for networking success before, during, and after the event.
Before the event
See if you can find out what people will be at the event and research them and their companies. It’s always better to have some background rather than just going in cold.
Give yourself a goal to meet. Decide that you’re going to have X number of meaningful conversations, or you’re going to collect X number of business cards. That should keep you moving in the right direction, rather than getting sidelined in a conversation with one person or hiding in the corner.
Bring your positive attitude. Remember that everyone there is interested in meeting people. That’s why they came. So there’s no reason in the world to feel awkward. Dress in something that makes you feel confident and professional, stand up straight and put a smile on your face. You will feel better, and you’ll be more likely to attract others, too.
During the event
Get there early. It’s easier to walk into a room with less people in it that haven’t gotten deep into conversations yet, rather than a room full of people already talking to someone.
Before you do anything else, start by introducing yourself to the person at check-in, and ask where you can find the organizer. Introduce yourself, and thank them for setting up the event. That should start you out on the right foot.
Try looking for people who are standing by themselves. If you’re nervous, it’s easier to strike up conversations with them rather than break into a group. And chances are, they’re nervous, too.
Have some conversation starters ready, like, “Hi, how are you?” or “What brings you here today?” (See, they’re not hard.)
Focus on asking questions and gathering information, rather than selling yourself—but have a quick, clear explanation of who you are and what you’re looking for ready to go.
Think about spending 5 minutes establishing a connection rather than just grabbing their business card and running.
When you do get a business card, take a couple of seconds and write a few notes on the back to jog your memory later.
After the event
You must follow up with every business card or contact info you have, or the entire networking event will be worthless to you. Send an email, connect on LinkedIn…something. I would follow up within 24 hours. Just continue the conversation. Tell them it was nice to meet them, ask a question about how something they told you turned out, ask how things are going, give them a few more details about you, tell them if there’s anything you can do for them don’t hesitate to ask. And then add them to your list of contacts to maintain to keep a healthy network.