So you want to network. Or at least you’ve heard that you should. You’ve planned on wearing your best shoes, brushing your teeth twice and talking about yourself at several strangers for a few hours until someone hands you a job. Easy, right? Not quite.
The best way to have a successful, fulfilling experience at a networking event is by remembering that the goal is for everyone to make connections, not for everyone to offer you a job. Networking is about connecting with other people about shared passions and interests. Most importantly, it’s about listening to what others need and helping them find what they are looking for without expecting personal gain.
Networking can be exciting and rewarding if you make the right moves. Follow the tips below to learn how to network successfully at your next event.
Have a Game Plan
As boastful as it may seem, it’s important to have a plan on how you’re going to sell yourself. Before attending a networking event, be sure to understand your own strengths, skillsets and talents and how to articulate them. Think about what you’ll want to talk about and how you’ll explain the value you can bring to the table. Practice your “pitch” a few times so you’re comfortable with talking about yourself conversationally and you don’t get lost just reading off your resume to everyone you meet.
Keep Your Cool
If you see attending a networking event as the last bastion of the desperate and unemployed, , you need to adjust your attitude. Networkers recognize (and avoid) desperate jobseekers who make the rounds with the expectation of hearing “You’re hired!” after a five minute conversation. This leads to rushed, insincere interactions that reap little benefit. Even if you really do need a short turnaround time, focus on building relationships and leaving an authentic representation of your skills and value. You’ll make a much longer lasting impression.
It’s (Not) All About You
Be sure to do your part by facilitating introductions and sharing news and industry insights, even if it doesn’t directly pertain to your specific goals. With every conversation at a networking event, it’s best to walk away as the one who spoke the least. Ask a lot of questions and try to identify exactly what someone needs. Armed with this information, you can start playing matchmaker with people in the room. If you meet people who you feel carry genuine value, make it a goal to connect some of them with someone who could benefit from their skillset. This way, you’ve played your part in making the networking event successful and built some strong professional relationships.
Many conversations at networking events end with the exchange of business cards or a hasty “Keep in touch!” If you told someone you would follow up with them, it’s important that you do so promptly. If you missed a chance to make a connection between two people or you just want to stay in good graces with someone you met, a quick email can start a conversation with some serious benefits.
Networking events can reap many lasting benefits for your career. When it comes to networking, practice makes perfect. Go to networking events and invest time in developing your networking skills. It will continue to be an important skill throughout your career.
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