Navigating A Networking Event
Networking is one of the greatest tools you have in your job search. It is important to prepare for the event, be professional while you're there and be proactive with your follow-up in order to get the best results.
Have A Goal
Before you go, come up with two outcomes you hope to get out of the event—for example: meet three new people, get one new job lead. Knowing ahead of time what you are hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused during the event.
Dress to Impress
Choose something professional to wear; you won’t make a good impression if you're dressed too casually. Pick something that makes you feel good. It will help you exude confidence in what can be a challenging environment.
Bring Business Cards and Resumes
Free online business cards are available, so take the time to have them printed before the event and make sure your resume is polished. Bring more of both than you think you’ll need, and keep them in a case so they will stay organized and you can grab them quickly.
Make A Great Intro
Introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name and giving a firm but brief handshake. Then, listen for the other person’s name and try and use it while you’re speaking. This will not only help you remember their name, but it also conveys sincerity and interest on your part.
Asking the other person about their background will show you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities. Ask open ended questions such as:
--How do you like working for your company?
--What projects are you working on right now?
--How did you get involved in your field?
Let the other person speak first! The person who talks first is only being half listened to. The other person is preoccupied with what she’s going to say when it’s her turn to speak. By asking the other person questions first, she’ll be much more relaxed and focused when the conversation turns to you. When it’s your turn to share, keep it brief. People will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase.
After mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who they are, what you talked about, and any follow-up you want to do. This will make contacting them much easier. It will also give you time to take a breath and regroup.
Follow Up And Connect On LinkedIn & Request An Informational Interview
A few days after the event, send follow-up emails to anyone you met with whom you’d like to continue networking. Make sure to personalize each email. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and mention something that you talked about. Don't be shy about connecting on LinkedIn with someone after the event. Take the time to customize each message and send a friendly short note. Its definitely not the time to ask for a job. This is the time to suggest any follow-up, for example: ask your new contact to meet for an informational interview.