In the world today, digital communication reigns supreme among many industries. With this wonderful electronic convenience come virtual conference rooms, webcam meetings, email, etc. However, there is a realm within all industries where digital communication fails to exceed the importance of interpersonal communication: the world of networking.
Whether you’re job-hunting or looking to build your professional network, networking is key to thrive in any industry. It can be daunting for some, but short-term jitters can lead to long-term results. Want to find out how? See below for some helpful, stress-reducing tips on perfecting the art of networking.
For First-Timers: Find Networking Opportunities in Your Area
For those who aren’t familiar with networking, even finding local networking events to go to may seem like a challenge in itself. And for that, I recommend the following websites:
Biz Journals: This is a great resource to educate you on not only industry trends but on local networking events. Each city listed has an online business journal and a calendar containing networking events in that area. This is a reliable tool and is updated weekly – perfect for those new to the networking game!
Network After Work: Another great website where you can choose your city and specifically target what you are seeking. My suggestion would be to create an account – it’s free and it gives you more results than organically searching on your own.
Meet Up: With an array of opportunities to connect with people with similar interests, lifestyles and hobbies you are sure to connect with new people with ease. Pick your city, category, interest and search for the group or groups that interest you or create your own Meet Up group that is tailored for what you are looking for.
Select a Time of Day That Works For You
Plan smart. Networking events can be in the morning, lunch hour, or evening. What time-frame is best for your work schedule? How long is the event? Also, check the itinerary for the event; if it doesn’t mention any food items, plan ahead by eating before the event (no one wants to hear your stomach growl).
Also, if you’re an introvert or not keen on networking, get there early to avoid the large crowds. Planning ahead based on time-of-day can help you make the most out of networking.
Dress to Impress! Don’t blend into a sea of black and grey. Instead, wearing a bright color or a unique accessory can be a great conversation starter – especially for women. It can also help people better remember you because for most people, memory works better in color – its science, ladies! So, don’t be afraid to show off that new pink dress or that yellow skirt. Whatever it is, make it professional and memorable.
Come Prepared. A networking event should be treated like an informal interview. Don’t bring a bulky briefcase; just bring the basics to make a professional impression. Although it depends on the type of networking event (read those descriptions), some of the basics could be the following:
Being prepared can make all the difference when it comes to meeting new people, because you often don’t get a second chance, and it speaks volumes if you’re not prepared to navigate within a crowded venue.
Don’t Bring Baggage. Obviously, we don’t want to call our fellow co-workers or friends “baggage” per say but in some situations, they can become just that: baggage. When I say this, I mean someone who feels too uncomfortable to leave your side to talk to other people, or only wants to talk to you because they are too nervous. Yes, networking can be a little unnerving for first-timers, but it is important to understand the importance of networking – to meet people in your industry and connect. While bringing a friend to a networking event might ease your nerves, you should remain focused, know what you are there for, and choose cautiously/wisely when inviting others.
Start From the Front and Work Back. Usually at networking events, there is a check-in table where guests are required to write down their name and information; this gives you the perfect opportunity to start networking. Mingling with the person at the front desk can often lead to her/him introducing you to more people. If this doesn’t happen, your next best bet is to go where the food or drinks are located – this could be the perfect moment for you to start a casual conversation about the food and/or drink that then leads to introductions and conversation.
Remember the 4 R’s of Networking:
Relax, and don’t be nervous! These are people, just like you, who are there for the same reason. Don’t let anyone see that you’re nervous, as this could damage your first impression for others in the room. Instead, focus on the (realistic) fact that not all eyes are on you.
Remember. At certain networking events, they don’t give out name tags. But as a general rule of thumb, saying someone’s name three times during introductions can help you remember the person’s name – repeat after they say their name, say “Hi” with their name included, and after you introduce yourself, end with “Nice to meet you (name)”.
Relate. Keep your conversation going by relating their experience, hobbies, or interests to your own. You are bound to find something in common if you work in a similar industry. Remember, if you can’t relate, simply build off of their conversation topic, and start something new.
Respect. When I say ‘respect’, I mean listen – many people today have a hard time listening. They either cut someone off while their talking, forget what the person is saying, or don’t focus on the conversation at hand by mind-wandering. Instead, look them in the eye, listen, and let them finish before you start talking. It may seem like common sense, but it can be difficult for certain people.
Networking should be painless, eye-opening, engaging, social, and encouraging — but most importantly, it should be promising. Networking with someone at the right place at the right time can completely change your career for the better if you engage effectively. What are you waiting for, go network – and make the most of it!
Sher Lynn, the Generational Guru and best-selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sher specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.