Networking is the process of building professional relationships and using your connections to learn more about a field or career of interest. These contacts can also help you land jobs that are only open to friends of current employees at a certain company. While attending networking events might seem daunting, preparing yourself beforehand can help ease your nerves and make the most of your networking event!
Practice Introducing Yourself
When you go to a networking event, you're going to have to introduce yourself to people. You should decide beforehand how you're going to tell your story so you can build connections with people more easily. You want to be professional, but you also want to show some of your personality and capture the other person's attention. Ask yourself: how are you going to make people interested in having a conversation with you? How can you convey what's special about you quickly and effectively? You should also prepare your answers to any other questions you might be asked, such as "why are you interested in this field?" or "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" so you can make a better impression on your conversation partner.
Do Your Research
Before the event, you should research who's going to be there and learn more about where they work. If you're bad with names, spend some extra time reviewing who's who so you can better remember who you talked to afterwards. Doing your research will also help you figure out who's the most important person for you to get connected with based on your shared interests and what you think you can learn from that person. You should also use this time to prepare some questions to ask that person so that you can make the most of your conversation.
There might be a lot going through your mind while you're at a networking event, but it is critical that you listen carefully to other people when they're talking. If you're not paying attention, you might miss important information, and you won't be able to have a meaningful conversation. You should also show your interest through your body language. Don't cross your arms, but smile and make eye contact so that the other person knows that you're listening.
Don't let all your hard work go to waste! After the networking event, make sure to follow up and stay connected with the people you've met. You can add your new connections on LinkedIn and send them LinkedIn messages or emails telling them that you enjoyed meeting them. If you both had a lot to talk about with each other, you can suggest a follow-up in-person meeting. Handing out business cards to the people you chat with is a great way to make sure that they have your information. If you receive a business card from someone, take a look at it and see if there’s anything that generates further discussion. Once your conversation with that person is over, you can write down any highlights of your conversation on the back of the card.
If you're looking for more help with networking, check out these articles!
College Networking: First Steps
Business Cards 101
Maintaining Your Professional Online Presence: Five Tips