You know – it’s no wonder that most people say they don’t like networking. Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event? From finding one to go to, to researching to see if it’s even worth it, figuring out what to wear, starting and exiting conversations…and the list goes on. Talk about major effort, right?
Lucky for you, I’ve spent some time putting together a master list of various networking dilemmas that occur before, during and after the event to make your life a little easier:
Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event?
Before the event
I don’t know how to find events near me!
There are always events going on – you just need to know where to look! Start by checking out sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup as most people list their events there. I also highly suggest doing a local Twitter search and of course, Google!
How do I know if an event is worth my time?
Ask yourself these two simple questions: What are my current goals and would this event help me get closer to achieving them? Who is attending this event that may be valuable for my network? Always do as much research as you can before you invest any time and money into an event.
I don’t have anyone to go with and I don’t want to go alone!
I know that having someone with you can help ease any anxiety but sometimes your best connections can be made when you’re alone! Sometimes when we attend with someone, we end up sticking with them the entire event which can hinder our ability to really connect with new people. But if you really do want someone else with you – let your network know! Post on social media that you’re attending the event and ask if anyone else is going. You’ll hopefully get some responses and can make plans to meet up. This is also where having a business bestie can come in handy!
I have no idea what to wear!
Although the dress code will vary depending on the event you’ll be attending, you should look polished and professional no matter what! Here’s my go-to networking look for a business casual environment:
- Blazer or cardigan
- Nice shirt/blouse
- Statement necklace
- Dark wash jeans
I’m a student and/or unemployed so I don’t have a business card. What do I do?
You definitely still need to bring a card with you. Instead of a “business” card, you should create a personal brand card! This should have key information such as:
- Your name
- Social Media Handles
- Areas of expertise
Creating your business cards: If your budget allows, you can hire a graphic designer to create them for you. If not, I highly recommend Canva – it’s a FREE online design platform and they have templates for everything – including business cards!
Ordering your business cards: I’ve found Vistaprint and Moo to be amazing for business cards and they usually come very quickly!
During the Event
- Be natural (if you pretend to be someone you’re not, it will be obvious!)
- Explain what you do in clear, basic terms
- Highlight how you provide value through what you do
- Give just enough to leave them asking more
I want to start a conversation with someone but I don’t know what to say to break the ice!
This is probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts about networking, especially for introverts. How you break the ice does depend on the type of event but some conversation starters you can use are:
- What did you think of the panel or presentation?
- Is it your first time to one of these events?
- That’s a great [insert item name here; necklace, shoes, shirt, earrings, etc.] you have on!
I really want to leave but I don’t know how to end the conversation without looking rude.
Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you may think. I typically recommend being honest (unless of course, you’re just leaving to go home and watch Netflix) but there may be other reasons why you want to leave the conversation. Before you go, familiarize yourself with some networking scripts that you can use for different situations.
After the Event
I never end up making real connections at networking events!
There are a few reasons why this could be happening:
- You’re not doing your research beforehand to see if this event can help you meet your goals
- You’re attending with a friend that you already know and sticking with them during the entire event instead of having your own conversations
- You don’t ask the right questions
- You’re not attending the event with the right energy (For example, did you have a bad day and your body language isn’t too friendly?)
- You don’t follow up afterwards
You get out of it what you put in. Make a plan before, during and afterwards to ensure that the connections you make last beyond the event.
Knowing how to network successfully is pivotal to success in our careers. However, in my opinion, what we don’t hear enough about is what do after you network. Of course, what you do before and during the networking event is important but unless you’re strategic about what you do afterwards, what was the point of even going? What you do after you attend a networking event (of any kind) is what will make the biggest difference in your career.
You really do have to put the WORK in networking in order to be successful. Some of it is easy peasy, some is a bit anxiety-inducing but if you’re committed, the end result is definitely worth it.