An upcoming networking event can cause anxiety for even the most outgoing job hunter.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
While this old saying (seriously old – it was used in a New York Tribune article in 1918) is usually thrown about negatively when someone’s complaining about not getting that job or promotion they wanted, there is truth in these words.
A quick google search of “best way to get a job” will bring up tips on using your professional network. Which makes sense – hiring managers have to trust that the information they’ve gathered, about a stranger, through resumes and interviews is enough to figure out if this is the right person for the job. It’s so much easier if someone they know can vouch for this person.
You want to build your professional network so you’ve joined an organization or signed up for an in-person networking event in your field. Now you need to make it work for you. Coming out of the networking event you want to:
A.) Be memorable
B.) in a positive way and
C.) on paper (more or less).
Make sure you’re remembered, but not because you danced on a table or drank from a fountain. And make sure that you and your new contacts leave with the info you need to contact each other.
Here are 9 tips to make the most of your next in-person networking event.
1.) Know this networking event is a chance to network.
This doesn’t mean “make sure it’s actually a networking event” it means “take advantage of industry events to network.” If you’re attending an industry association meeting, you can network. If you’re going to hear a speech by an expert in your field, you can network. If you’re going to a publicized networking event, you can network.
2.) Prepare before you go.
Study up on the event. If possible find out what companies will be there and decide which ones you want to connect with. If there will be speakers, learn something about them or what they’ll be speaking on. If there’s a workshop, be prepared to be a main player. If the event provides pre-event literature, READ IT!
3.) Dress appropriately.
A networking event can be a pre-interview. If you can’t find any information on expected dress, then business casual is usually best. You want to be remembered, but NOT because you wore that low-cut dress or those hideous Bermuda shorts.
Remember that preparation you did? Now’s the time to use it. Look for those company reps and introduce yourself. Ask questions that pertain to what the company does. Ask questions of the speaker. And volunteer to play a primary role in the workshop. This is a chance for you to get noticed, and possibly show off your expertise.
5.) Talk to strangers.
It’s possible you’ll attend the networking event with friends or co-workers, but you’ll make more contacts if you appear to be alone. If you’re instructed to create groups for an activity, or you’re sitting in groups at tables, make sure you don’t know anyone in your group. This will do two things – force you to talk to strangers and possibly gain a new contact, and make it easier for new people to approach you.
6.) Be yourself.
You may be tempted to portray the person you think someone wants to see, but that would be a big mistake. By being yourself you’ll appear more genuine, more honest, and more competent. If a subject comes up that you’re not familiar with, you’ll score more points by asking questions than you will by trying to fake it.
7.) Listen and be helpful.
Networking is a two-way street. When you’re talking, you should also be listening. If you can offer solid advice to someone, do it. If you’re not the person they need to hire, but you know someone that fits what they’re looking for then share that and offer to make an introduction. If you connect a stranger to a great candidate, it’s possible they’ll think of you down the line.
8.) Trade business cards, but don’t spam.
Wait for someone to ask for your card rather than handing them out randomly. You want people to keep your card rather than tossing it as they leave. And when you ask for a card, make notes on the back to remind you of your conversation. Consider purchasing and using actual networking business cards to hand out at networking events.
9.) Arrive early, stay late.
You won’t connect with everyone at the event, nor should you. You need to look for people that are on a similar career path to yours. Statistically, the more people you talk to, the better chance you’ll find those right connections. And the longer you’re at the event, the more people you’ll talk to.
Networking is only one tool in your job search, but it’s an important one. Take advantage of networking opportunities and make connections that count.