So, you’re about to start the networking process, but you are a shy and introverted person who has never been to a networking event before. The truth is, networking can be intimidating.
You have to put yourself out there and you’re more than likely going to be nervous—and that’s OK! This process is how you make connections that can help you move further on in your job search and career.
For those who have never tried networking, or are struggling with the task of needing to speak to new people, here are 7 steps to help you stand out at networking events:
Step 1: Research the event and the participants
So, you have found a networking event that you want to register for, but you don’t know how to prepare. Research may be hard depending on the event, but a lot of networking events—career fairs especially—should have a list of the companies attending the event.
Make sure you check them out and see who you want to meet. If you are really interested in a certain company, do your research on their Human Resource Representative, the company’s history, and be ready to start a good conversation.
Step 2: Make an interesting business card or calling card
Now you have registered, done the research, and made a list of the top companies you want to talk to. What else can you do to prepare? Business cards!
And if you’re still a student and don’t really have a job that is worth noting on a card, you can always make a calling card. This is just a simple card that includes your name, phone number, email, and any social media accounts such as LinkedIn.
If you do have a job, try making a non-traditional card of good-quality paper with a memorable design. A few places that I really like to go for design inspiration are Vistaprint and Shutterfly.
Step 3: Approach open conversations!
You have your business cards ready and you are about to attend a networking event. But, how do you approach people?
I was taught a handy technique in my undergraduate degree that I still use today: I scan a room at a networking event. At times, you’ll find that some groups in the event are already in a conversation. So when do you approach them? When they have an “opening” in their group.
Approaching two people who are open is the best way to start, but the image above is a good framework to look at. Try it next time you are at a networking event and see how it works!
Step 4: The handshake
You have made your way to an open group of two and someone reaches their hand out to shake yours. This is important: match their pressure when returning the handshake.
This will take some practice but, when you don’t match the confidence of a handshake, people ultimately notice. Take some time with someone beforehand and try different types of handshakes and see what works best for you before you go into the event.
Step 5: Make eye contact
You have shaken someone’s hand and now what? You are about to start a conversation with them, and they are looking right at you. Keep your eye contact when appropriate, and it will go a long way.
As technology becomes more of a part of our society, we tend to look each other in the eye less and less. By maintaining eye contact you appear confident and sincere, which is exactly what you want to be when looking to network and make connections. Your eyes are a powerful tool that can show your interest in another person.
But remember to be culturally sensitive and note when making and maintaining eye contact is acceptable.
Step 6: Meaningful conversation
You are keeping eye contact, and now you are going to talk. This is a great time to take what you learned before you came and demonstrate your knowledge of the industry.
It can also be a great time for an elevator pitch or to talk about your interest in opportunities at the company. To be sure you are having a meaningful conversation, when you listen to others talking, take mental notes and be prepared to follow up with questions.
It is also good to make sure they talk about themselves. People, in general, like talking about themselves and what they do, and if you remember that it will work in your favour.
Step 7: Always follow up
The event is over, and it’s the next day or two. For those good and meaningful conversations you had at the event, use those to introduce yourself when connecting on social media or through email.
LinkedIn is your best friend, so make sure when you send a message that you have something interesting to put on the invitation. When you connect with people on LinkedIn and they don’t know you and you don’t introduce yourself, then you will have far less chance of acceptance and impact on the person than if you write a personalized message.
Networking may be scary, but I hope that these tips can make the process a little bit easier.
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