22 Dec 14 Career Advice
For many, the thought of going to a networking event is akin to getting root canal surgery. They know it’s important, but the thought of standing in a room full of strangers, feeling insecure and making small talk, fills them with utter dread.
Oh NO!!! It's tonight. And I've run out of excuses not to go.
The truth is that networking is increasingly recognized as a major determining factor in career progression. More often than not, it’s who you know and not what you know that will help you up the ladder, so you need to be proactive about making new connections, expanding your contacts, and chasing business opportunities. But it isn’t easy.
For those who currently struggle with networking, here are 12 steps that will help make you become a networking pro.
1. Do Some Preparation
Find out who you know who will be attending the event and decide on what you want to get out it. Who do you want to meet? What do you want to find out?
Not only will it make the people you are speaking with feel more comfortable and happy, it’ll make you seem far more approachable to others. Being mindful of positive body language (link here) will also help you feel more confident and quickly develop rapport with those around you.
3. Don't Stick with the People You Know
This is a rookie mistake: we find the one person we know and then stick to them like glue for the rest of the event. Don't be a sheep! Move around the room, introduce yourself and meet new people. It might be daunting at first but the more you do it the easier and more enjoyable it will be.
4. Read Today's Newspaper
Take at least 20 minutes to read through a newspaper or, if you're really pressed for time, have a quick glance at a news feed on twitter. This will provide you with several current topics to bring into conversation. Asking people their opinion is a great way to get conversation flowing.
5. Ask Open Questions
Avoid questions that could be answered with 'yes' or 'no' as these tend to close down conversation. Instead, opt for open-ended, interesting and relevant questions. It'll make for better conversation and you'll make a better first impression.
6. Don't Defensive Drink
It might be tempting to have a few drinks to boost your confidence but it will make you appear unprofessional and lacking credibility. You don't want to be rememebered as that one who had several too many.
7. Wear Something Distinctive
This will make it easier for people to remember you and it will make you stand out from the crowd, but don't wear something that will make you feel self-conscious. The goal is to be confident and memorable.
8. Take lots of business cards
It's astounding how many people go to networking events without business cards. Take plenty and dish them out!
When you receive a business card, take a few seconds after the new contact has walked away and make a note on the back to remind you of how you intend to follow up. I usually write a word will which trigger my memory of our conversation and the agreed next step (eg. "Email re. coffee).
If you don't have any business cards, pull out your phone and ask people if they'd like to connect on LinkedIn!
There are few things more frustrating than speaking to someone who keeps looking away or their phone and is clearly not listening to what you are saying. Don't be that person. If you person in front of you isn't going to be a good contact, politely excuse yourself.
10. Ask Others to Introduce You
If there is someone you want to meet in particular, find someone else who can make a personal introduction. Most people like being asked for help, but make sure you offer to return the favour.
11. Use the Person's Name
When you meet a new person, immeditealy use his or her name in onversation and repeat it again. It will help you remember their name and it helps build rapport.
12. Follow Up
The best networkers are those who follow up the next day. The longer you wait, the less likely the person will remember you and the more daunting the task will seem. Following up promptly suggests that you are professional, reliable and proactive - underlining that strong first impression you made the evening before.
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