Everyone knows that having the right professional contacts can help you in your career and open the door to new opportunities. How and where do you meet these people? One of the best ways to connect with people who can help you grow is by attending networking events.
What is job networking? Essentially, it’s going out and meeting people in your field (or the field you want to break into) that could potentially help you later find and land a job. The idea of mingling in a room full of strangers can be intimidating, but these tips can help you change your attitude towards networking from awkward to awesome.
Express genuine interest in others. An easy way to get to know someone is by asking questions. In addition to the standard question “What do you do,” consider asking the following:
How did you hear about the event?
Where are you from?
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Have you got any exciting projects coming up?
What’s your favorite part of the job?
How did you get involved in (industry/company?)
What kind of education/experience do you need to get into this field?
Be prepared to talk about yourself and your work. Have 2-3 interesting talking points in mind before you go to the event. Focus on things that make your work unique and keep it concise.
Set realistic expectations. In a room of 50 people, you may only get to talk to 10. That is perfectly okay. The goal of networking isn’t to pass out your business card to 50 strangers. You want to make connections and start relationships. If I’ve made one solid connection at an event, I consider it to have been a success.
Pro tip: I like to research attendees ahead of time. If there is someone I really want to connect with, I reach out to them to introduce myself before the event. I then use the face-to-face time to build on the introduction.
Follow up. No matter who you’ve connected with, it is always a good idea to follow up quickly. Whether it is via email or LinkedIn, mention highlights of the conversation to help jog their memory. A little follow up goes a long way.
Last, but not least, Be yourself! Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. It’s okay if you are nervous. Truth be told, a lot of people are at networking events. But people also like talking about themselves, so if you’ve got your questions prepared, conversations should go smoothly.
To find networking events, ask your colleagues, browse sites like Meetup or Eventbrite, check LinkedIn, or search other social media sites.