Solving the career or job search networking puzzle can be daunting, but not with these 7 networking tips.
Last night I attended a network event for our local Financial Executive Networking Group chapter. I was tired but I went anyway. Networking events can be intimidating, especially for shy people, but meeting new people and expanding our networking is critical part of job search, career growth and building or maintaining a consulting practice.
Face it, we all need to talk to people we don’t know yet, regardless of how tired we are or how shy.
Here are a few tips to make your next networking experience positive and productive:
- Have a plan. What do you want to accomplish by attending that meeting? David wanted to meet folks who could introduce him to private equity. My goal was to pass out cards to grow my LinkedIn connections and to spread the word about my consulting practice. Without goals, why are you there?
- Prepare a few things to talk about. Lamar Ratcliffe, a transition coach and networking expert, suggests having a go-to question you can ask. As the MC of the group that night, Lamar helped by giving us a networking challenge to ask everyone you meet what you like to do in your spare time. Just asking that go-to question sparked plenty of conversation. What other questions could you ask? Being prepared makes you feel confident. Having a go-to question takes the burden off of you to do all the talking.
- Set a goal. It is hard for many people to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. I used to force myself to talk to three people I didn’t know before I sat in the corner with my friends. Sticking with this goal helped me meet strangers. I have grown more comfortable with practice. So will you.
- Be gracious and kind. Remember Go up to the person in the room who looks most uncomfortable. That person is probably more uncomfortable with networking than you are. He or she will appreciate your conversation the most! No one likes to be picked last for dodge-ball like in grade school so you will be doing that person a favor. Focusing on making the other person comfortable takes the attention and burden away from you and might make the other person open up more.
- Having a job to do makes it easier to network. Volunteering gives you something to do with your hands and gives you purpose, an excuse to talk to people. Every group needs volunteers so they will be thrilled to give you a job to do at the next networking event.
- Don’t drink too much. When I go to a networking event I limit myself to 1 drink every hour. I might have a beer or glass of wine then water or ice tea. This way I keep my wits about me so I present the sharpest version of myself.
- Thank the host. Make yourself memorable by thanking the host for his or her effort. It just takes a minute but might lead to additional conversation or opportunities.
What can you add to your networking tool kit to make the networking experience more productive for your job search or career growth? Check out The Interview Doctor’s “7 Tips for Success for the Shy Person” for more ideas on how to grow your career.