Networking is not easy.
There. I said it.
Although it’s something that I talk about frequently and it’s something that I’m a huge advocate for…there’s no denying how hard it is.
Well, first you have to figure out when and where the networking event is. But, of course, I’ve tried my best to make it easier for you by adding an Event Calendar to the site!
Then, you have to make conversation with complete strangers after trying to figure out a good ice breaker. And if you’re an introvert, you’re likely hoping that you don’t have visible sweat pits from your nervousness. Trust me, I’ve been there!
And of course, you have to pitch yourself so you actually like sound an interesting and professional individual.
I mean, talk about pressure!
Over time, networking does become much easier but if it’s something you’re new to, I can just imagine how you feel! But, like anything you want to succeed at, you need a plan so here’s my tips for before, during and after if you’re new to networking:
Figure out your goals and objectives
I’ve talked about this in the context of informational interviews but this also applies to networking in general. Without a clear sense of what your goals are, you’ll be mindlessly networking and it won’t be a good use of your time.
For example, are you looking for a job? Are you looking to build your network?
With this in mind, you’ll be able to search for networking opportunities that are directly related to your goals and objectives.
Review your social profiles and business cards
One of the first things that I do after a networking event is look up people on Linkedin. If someone were to look at your profile right now, would they like what they see? Take this opportunity before you invite more eyeballs to your online profiles to ensure that they are up to date and they are a positive reflection of you.
Here are some things to review:
- Your headshot: Do you have one? Is it a professional headshot and not a selfie?
- Do you have your most recent role added to your Linkedin profile?
- Is your summary on Linkedin and your other social bios personable yet professional?
- Do you have any spelling or grammatical errors?
In addition, review your business cards – do you have a lot left or do you need to order more? Do your business cards have your most up-to-date information?
If you don’t have a business card (maybe because you’re a student or in between jobs?), I highly recommend creating a personal brand card! The card would include:
- Your name
- Your industry/profession/specialty
- Your email
- Social media handles
Whether you’ll be bringing a business card or a personal brand card, never attend a networking event empty handed!
Audit your closet for appropriate networking attire
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
- Statement necklace
- Dark wash jeans
Don’t have any suitable items in your closet? Take a quick trip to the mall to pick up these staple wardrobe items.
Search for the opportunities
Finding the right opportunities does require a bit of work, here’s my post on how to find local networking opportunities! Be sure to check out my Event Calendar too!
Find a “wing woman”
This is when having a business bestie really comes in handy! I mean, if you’re feeling like you want to attend alone – all the power to you – but having a friend with you is really helpful especially if it is your first networking event ever. See if you can find a friend that is familiar with networking that will be able to give you a boost of confidence and you can observe how they navigate the room!
Be natural! As scary as it may feel walking into a room full of strangers, remember that everyone is there for the same reason! Just breathe, smile and be yourself!
Start conversations by the food and beverages: As a newbie, coming up with how to break the ice may be a bit nerve wracking so there’s no better way to start a conversation than by the food and drinks. Make a comment on how tasty the food is and someone near by is bound to agree which will give you the perfect opportunity to segue into a conversation.
Don’t hand out business cards to everyone you meet! It’s extremely tacky to just shove your card into someone’s hands if you’ve barely exchanged a few words. Only give your cards to people who you had a great conversation with and you would like to stay connected. And while we’re talking about business cards – keep your cards easily accessible so you don’t have to dig around in your purse when you need them.
Watch your alcohol intake: I know that a drink may give you some liquid courage but please make sure you don’t go overboard! A networking event is one of many places where you really don’t want to embarrass yourself by being intoxicated.
You thought your work was done, didn’t you?
Make sure to check out this post on the 4 things you should do after a networking event.
Although networking can be a bit nerve wracking, building a professional network is key to your career success. I highly encourage you to use these tips, step out of your comfort zone and be confident as you embark on your networking journey!