Attending a networking event can be an intimidating experience, but one of the most valuable in your job search. It is an opportunity for you to meet people in your desired field that could ultimately help you find a job, lead you to a job, or even offer you a job!
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time and create long-lasting professional connections at the next networking event you attend.
- Before attending the event, ask yourself what you’d like to get out of it. Like walking into a new job, set goals for yourself. How many connections would you like to make? Is there anyone specific you’d like to meet? Do you want to walk away with multiple job leads? Creating set goals ahead of time will help you stay on task while at the event.
- Remember that you’re not alone! Not everyone at the event will have years of experience under their belt or a wide range of connections to provide. Attending a networking event can be for a range of motives; from career advancement, gaining industry insights, to new business and beyond. These events offer value for all levels of experience.
- Dress professionally – this makes a lasting impression when meeting someone for the first time. Plan your outfit a day prior to the event, making sure your clothes are wrinkle-free and presentable.
- Bring more than enough business cards to provide the connections you meet. Keep them in a case or a special spot in your bag that is easily accessible and won’t crumple your cards. This shows you’re organized and professional. Giving someone your business card is an easy reminder for the person you’re meeting to keep in contact.
Leave a Lasting Impression.
- While making connections, it is important to create a positive first impression. When introducing yourself make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and pay attention to your body language.
- Networking is a two-way exchange, so show interest and truly listen to what the other person is saying. Engage in the conversation by asking follow-up questions that could be useful in your job search. How did you get involved in your field? What tips do you have for a young job seeker? What does a typical day at your job entail?
- It is important not to rush any conversations you are in. Fewer is better; the more you talk to one individual, the more you are both learning about each other. A few strong and stable connections are better than trying to talk to everyone in the room during a two-hour event.
- Be thoughtful in your exchanges. Networking is a mutual benefit – even if it’s simply a piece of advice for someone, don’t walk away from a conversation without contributing something valuable. There is no “I” in networking!
- The day following the event, you should reach out to the connections you made, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. Don’t be afraid to even set up a meeting for coffee or lunch if your conversation went well.
- Remember not all the people you meet will have a job to offer you, but they may know someone who does. They may even be able to give you proper advice to lead you in the right direction for your career search.
Like most new experiences, the more you network, the better you will become at it. Grab your business cards and get out there!