I’ve been to many networking events over the years and I think I can safely say that attendees break down into three categories.
- Those there for a free breakfast and a natter.
- The overly pushy – they back you into a corner and talk at you about what they do, shove a business card in your hand and then wander off to do the same to someone else before you’ve had chance to tell them what you do.
- The wallflower – they keep themselves to themselves and try not to draw attention to themselves.
The truth is networking can be incredibly important from a business and job seeking point of view and the principles of doing it are basically the same.
I think at some point, we’ve all worked with someone who, when you attend an event seems to know everyone in the room. They seem to spend the whole time shaking people’s hands, nodding to them from across the room and if they’ve never actually met the person, they know the names of all the important people there and waste no time in introducing themselves! This is a brilliant example of a networker!
Between 60% and 80% of people get their jobs and business through networking, proving there is some truth in the old saying “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know”
So here are some tips to help you in the art of networking!
WHO ARE YOU?
- Know how you want to introduce yourself; this is something you can practice in the privacy of your own home.
- Write down some possible introductions and practice them! Have a few different versions, as some will be more fitting to some occasions than others.
- Enlist the help of friends and try some role-play this will help your confidence.
- Make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re saying, use words and language that fit with the style of vocabulary you’d normally use.
LOOK THE PART
- Oscar Wilde was right, when he said, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”, they really do count!
- If you’re attending a networking event, then make sure you choose professional attire that is suitable for the occasion, you don’t want to over or under dress.
- If you can (and it’s not always possible) try and find out who will be attending, that way you can decide who you want to talk to and more importantly what you’re looking for from them.
- Your main aim at any networking event is to build relationships, you won’t walk out of one with a job offer, but you will have made connections.
- if it’s a job fair you’re attending then when you first arrive, take some time to look at the list of who’s there and who you want to see.
- Have copies of your CV with you that way you can hand them out to potential employers. If you haven’t got a CV or you need to update it, then by creating a Dalmatian profile, you can do this for FREE!
- If it’s a networking event, then try and find out who will be there and see if you can arrange to be sat on the same table as them.
- Conversation is an art form, so practice being able to do it! Sounds daft I know, don’t ask closed questions such as “you work for a bank, don’t you?”.
- Ask questions that are going to stimulate a natural flow of conversation.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
- Networking can be scary, so if you’re worried about doing it, then take a friend or colleague with you, but make sure you don’t just spend the event talking to each other!
- To make the most of the networking event, send a brief e-mail afterwards to the people you met. It will help keep you in their mind and build on that initial relationship. (However don’t use this as an excuse to add them to your mailing list for funny jokes!)
TRY, TRY AND TRY AGAIN!
- You’ll find some networking events more useful than others, so keep attending!
- Not only will you meet more people, but your confidence will increase too.