Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers and was not sure how to approach someone and start a conversation? This is how it may feel at your first networking event. Networking events can be frightening, but you are not alone. Networking is a great way to socialize with business professionals, discover potential job opportunities, and create a list of contacts for your future job search.
Here are some tips to help you excel at a networking event:
Create a Plan of Action
To make the most out of a networking event, it is essential to have a plan of action. Never walk into an event without doing your research beforehand, as it could end up being a waste of time for both you and the attendees. When strategizing, collect a list of attendees who may be of interest to you and your profession. The online invitation will often include a list of companies presenting along with the representative names. The list may also include contact information such as email, LinkedIn profile link, or phone number.
To get a head start, reach out to the representatives before the event and express your interest in speaking with them. Let them know you will be attending so they can be prepared to meet you.
The point of attending a networking event is to acquire as much information as possible from a multitude of resources. Do not be afraid to start a conversation—it shows your interest in the company and helps build the relationship.
Here are some appropriate questions to ask at a networking event:
- What are your primary job responsibilities?
- What experience did you have to get the job you currently have?
- What is a typical workday like for you?
- How many hours do you work a week?
- Do you have any advice for someone at my professional level?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What qualities make someone the ideal employee for your organization?
- What are some of the challenges you face in your position?
- What is the work environment like at your company?
- Are there any courses or workshops that are worth taking to develop my knowledge?
Do not simply rely on your memory to absorb all of the information you learn at a networking event. Bring a pen and notepad or use a note-taking app on your phone to write down any information that might be useful later. Notes also come in handy when you follow up with your contacts because it shows you were an attentive listener. Also, do not be afraid to ask for any additional information from the people you speak with if they do not have it listed on their business card.
After socializing with so many professionals, it is important to follow up with a personal email or a message on LinkedIn—it shows your interest and could even lead to a personal connection. As a general rule, wait to contact the person until three or four days after the event.
When you contact someone, what occurs more often than not is that rather than the contact helping you, it is instead their network of contacts who help to refer you for opportunities.
Making the time to attend networking events is worth it as long as you ask the right questions, remain in contact the professionals you meet, and most importantly, have a positive attitude!
Do you have any other tips for networking? Let us know on social media!