For some, networking like a pro comes easy. For others, however, it is far more of a challenge. Putting yourself out there requires a level of confidence that a lot of us simply do not have off the bat. It can take time to get good at networking, so to make sure you don’t waste yours, our team have put together some advice on how to get the most out of this important career skill.
Don’t wait for a reason to network
A lot of people wait until they are unhappy in their jobs, or even without a job before they start to attend networking events. This is not the best way to go about getting onto the networking events scene, particularly if yours is the latter situation. You will enter the event feeling sheepish, lacking confidence and perhaps even feeling a little desperate. It’s a far better idea to start attending networking events before you really need to – when you are happy as you are, doing well and riding high. You will start the event off on the right foot, feeling comfortable and confident, which will translate into a far better experience in the short and long term.
Know what you want out of the event
Networking is about more than extending your professional circle, though that is always a positive outcome. You need to go in with a plan about what you want to achieve. Do you want to get your name in front of as many influential people as possible? Well, then you will have to make sure you get your hands on a list of attendees and do your research, as well as track them down when at the event. Do you want to connect to specific people in order to potentially work with them in the future? In that case, you’ll need to work on a pitch so you can sell yourself in such a way that they will be interested. Networking events are essentially collections of people who want to sell something about themselves or their business, so knowing how you want to present yourself is crucial.
You’re not looking for a job
Though you may be at a networking event because you are unemployed and looking for work, that should never be your agenda. You are there to make meaningful connections with new people. Sure, these connections might lead to a job down the line, but if you go in presenting yourself as a jobseeker, you might find yourself with fewer people interested in talking to you.
Everyone is important
You may know exactly who you want to track down at a networking event, but that does not mean that you avoid those not on your radar. Never avoid anyone or cut short a conversation if you believe that person to be unable to help you in your ‘mission’. Not least because it’s just plain rude, but also because you never know. Great business connections have often been made out of unlikely pairings, so give everyone the same amount of time.
…with every single person you spoke to during the event. Whether you jotted the name down, or took a business card, connect with every person you chatted to. This should ideally be done within 24 hours after the event and in any way you feel comfortable, whether that’s email, a phone call or even a tweet.
Networking events can do wonders for your career, so make a concerted effort to attend as many as you are able to and get that etiquette down pat.