Networking: the thing we all love to hate. And, being young adults, it’s also one of the things we are forced to do the most.
It can be the worst. I mean, talking face-to-face with other people can be super awkward: you don’t have the protection of a computer screen, you have to make legitimate eye contact with real people, and most people go into networking with the motive to get a job.
Like, “Hi, I know we just met, but, uh, you hiring???”
It can be awkward! But it doesn’t have to be.
Networking is not about getting a job. It’s actually about learning and making relationships. When I shifted my networking goals from getting a job to making relationships, I was relieved of some of the pressure networking carries. So, with that in mind, I’m giving away my secrets on how to rule the room in any networking event, so you can be the next networking star!
So you’re going to a networking event:
Before I got to a networking event or job fair, I do a lil’ self-audit. I ask myself: Who am I? What are my strengths? What am I involved in and proud of? I pretend to pitch myself—that’s kind of how networking starts! Having interesting things to say in the beginning of a conversation not only breaks the ice but also makes you appear professional and confident.
I also try to research who will be at the networking event beforehand. That’s right, I do an all-out Google and Facebook deep dive to find out about these people. Sure, it’s a little weird, but I’ve found that knowing a bit about the people who will be at an event helps me think of questions or find common interests I can bring up in conversation.
Sweet! You’re ready to start networking:
It’s really hard to go up to someone alone and introduce yourself. While that’s definitely one way to meet someone, I find it’s a bit easier to network in a group setting. If you can, have a friend introduce you to the person you want to meet. Have the friend break the ice and slowly fade out as the conversation picks up.
If you are lucky enough to be at a networking event with friends, be sure to not hang around the same group for too long. Unless they are truly interesting and engaging, try to get to know as many people as you can—that’s the point of a networking event!
One of the most important things to practice during networking is body language: stand tall, make eye contact, and nod when you are listening to others. Appearing open to conversation is a major key.
What if you and the other person just aren’t clicking? It’s okay to politely excuse yourself! I’ve faked using the restroom before in order to get out of a conversation that wasn’t going anywhere. Sometimes you don’t connect, and that’s okay! If your time isn’t being used appropriately at a networking event, find ways to make it work for you.
Last, but definitely not least, remember to always exchange contact information!!!!
So, you ruled the room. Now what?:
Remember that nifty contact information? Here’s where it comes into play! Follow up with people you really connected with by emailing them no later than two days after the event. I usually thank the person for their time and suggest meeting again. I’ve found that people will usually want to, and great things can come out of meeting a second time!
Like always practice makes perfect…..