Networking has many benefits: you can meet new people, make connections, and learn about up and coming opportunities. If you’re attending an event for the first time, the following tips can help alleviate your concerns.
1. There’s no magic bullet. Keep in mind, networking events do not bring guaranteed success. Online or in person, you get out of networking what you put into it. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by imagining how you should be or act. Just focus on looking presentable, being considerate of others, and enjoying the company of the people you will meet. Worst case scenario, you have some food and drinks, then head home. Which leads to….
2. What should you talk about? Aside from divisive topics, strike up conversation on anything. The expectation may be that you should use this opportunity to market yourself, discuss your industry or potential career goals, and that is a great idea. However, I think it may be a bit easier (and a bit more natural) to just start conversation as you would if you were amongst friends. Chat about the food, current surroundings, or an interesting, relevant story you recently heard. Keep the stories positive, because everyone migrates towards enthusiastic people. Once you get into casual conversation, you have developed some rapport, and you can introduce your professional self and make a connection.
3. Conversation lost its sizzle? Try a few questions to get to know your new connection a bit better, as opposed to yes/no style questions. “How did you get started with XYZ Company?” “What makes someone at your company successful?” “What do you think of the changes with (function of job)?” Just be sure you contribute as well, making it a two-sided conversation.
4. Manage your time. Even if you feel like you’ve hit it off with someone, be respectful of their time. It would also be good for you to go along and meet more people as well. This is a great opportunity to exchange contact information either from sharing business/networking cards or another convenient method.
5. Confidence is key. Applying for a job, presenting a topic for a business meeting, interviewing, and meeting new people… all require confidence for success. You have to value yourself and convey enthusiasm before others can really see those qualities in you. If you’re feeling nervous about meeting new people, then practice what you may say with some friends. Smile often. Keep your head held high, literally. Posture and your presence when walking into a room will show your confidence. Make eye contact while talking to someone. These physical tips could help boost your confidence while approaching new people, and the more practice you get, the more you will improve.
Overall, professionally present who you are. Focus on building quality relationships and getting to know the people around you. Not every event will go smoothly, but it’s how we keep our cool under pressure or how we can make others feel that will make the lasting impression. Practice, get out there, and enjoy these events!
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