We all know that good networking is essential to job search and career success. Whatever level of networking skills you have, these networking tips will either help you get started or serve as a good reminder. So try using these five simple tips at any event to refresh your networking skills and get great results!
Be focused – know exactly what you would like to get out of a networking event. “I want to build more contacts” or “I hope to find some good leads to job opportunities” are good intentions but TOO VAGUE. If you only have a general idea of what you want out of an event, you will only get general suggestions in return.
Try this instead: “I want to find next step EA positions in the high-tech industry. So, at this event, I want to connect EAs in high tech companies – to 1) find out what it takes to get into this industry or 2) see if they would be willing to give me tips on my CV or 3) find out what they like or don’t like about their job.”
You can have more than one area of focus for one networking event. This way you can adapt your conversation based on who you meet. It also helps to know what kind of people will be at an event so that you can define your focus accordingly.
Have low expectations – Once you know what you hope to accomplish, it’s important to NOT expect it. Expecting a certain level of results puts undue pressure on yourself and can lead you to come across as stiff or pushy at an event. If it doesn’t seem like you are having fruitful conversations then you can always leave early. Keep a relaxed attitude and any results you get will be bonus; there are plenty of networking events out there. It’s better to go to a few more and therefore allow some to be “duds” than force yourself to make each one very productive. And occasionally you will just not be on top form – better cut your losses and go home early.
Practice being bold – It may sound obvious, but remember to talk to strangers. How many people go to business networking events only to stand in a corner with a drink? Or only talk to their friends and people they know? Most of us are shy with strangers, but the nature of networking wellrequires us to go beyond our comfort zone and talk to new people. Remember why you are there!
Don’t go with friends to networking events. Go by yourself and if you have access to a description of people who are attending, look at it in advance and circle anyone you may want to meet. Then just do it – start conversations to get to know people. They may also be feeling awkward and might appreciate you striking up a conversation, so they are not standing alone.
Alsoremember point two – you may not always be smooth or graceful in every conversation – but that’s okay. You are allowed to make mistakes; it’s the only way to practice. Besides, these are all strangers; if it doesn’t work out or you did something awkward, move on – they don’t know you anyway!
Pay it forward – You cannot just take from networking events, you also have to give when you can. This networking tip is essential as you also want to build a reputation as someone who can help others. If you know a recruiter who specialises in the finance sector and you meet a PA looking for work in that area, offer to connect them. This person will be appreciative andthey do not need to be someone who can also help you. You help someone and they help someone else and eventually that will come back around to you, if only in building your reputation. So do not only guide the conversation toward what you need but also consciously listen for ways you can help.
Follow Up – it’s pointless to take the time to go to events and follow these five networking tips at an event if you don’t make an effort to develop it afterwards. But follow up does not mean emailing everyone you met; remember your focus and prioritise your follow up activities – they can include connecting with people on Linkedin, sending emails to people who agreed to provide some kind of information to you, and also emailing people to help them with something.