We here at jobsDB believe in the virtues of networking and how it’s an effective way to propel one’s career to new heights. Whether you’re looking for a job or just interested to learn more about your chosen industry, attending networking events can help you stay current and gives you an edge over your competition.
As useful as these events may be, they are often overwhelming and can be quite intimidating especially to newcomers. Questions like, “Where do I start?” or “How can I start a conversation with people?” may be running through a first-timer’s mind once he steps foot into the room.
Good thing jobsDB has got you covered. Here are the do’s and don’ts of working a room at a career networking event. We won’t be giving out pastries and coffee at the end but we promise to make this worth your while.
Plan ahead of time
You wouldn’t go to a job interview or exam without preparing, right?
Like any other job hunting effort, you also need to devote as much time and dedication to networking events. That means doing your research before deciding to join one. Thanks to the Internet, looking for a networking event to attend is a lot easier and with it comes a dilemma – which one should you choose? Our advice is to pick the ones that would serve your interests best. Knowing which industries or careers you’re interested to get in are great starting points to knowing events you should be going after.
Set reasonable expectations
You don’t want to place added pressure on yourself on the day of the event by setting up unrealistic expectations.
Planning ahead of time can serve you well, but don’t expect for everything to go your way. Keep in mind that some things won’t always go your way. For example, don’t expect that you’ll be able to meet all participating companies in the event – you’ll be setting up yourself for disappointment if you do. Instead, have realistic expectations (“I can possibly meet up two or three university representatives to help choose the best MBA program for me.”). You’ll find yourself feeling more at ease if you do.
Remember to bring the essentials
These include calling cards, resumes, and recording devices such as pads, pens or tablets to help you take down notes. It’s fairly easy to forget details such as a person’s or company’s information especially in large events so it’s best to have these things handy.
You might feel the urge to just hand out your cards or resumes to everyone you meet, but you need to establish some type of connection before you do. Forbes has an excellent advice on handing out calling cards during these events. Darrah Brustein wrote, ‘If you haven’t built enough rapport with someone to encourage them to ask for your card, don’t offer one.’
Go big on small talk
Most people abhor small talk. However, doing small talk is an essential part of the networking experience, so just go ahead and mingle. Break the ice by making a comment about the event speaker, for example.
Practicing beforehand is helpful, especially if you’re shy about approaching strangers. Also, keep in mind that you have more or less the same goals for being there so you already have an easy conversation opener to use. Just remember to smile, introduce yourself and take it from there.
Find common ground
You don’t have to stick to business or job hunting as your topic. It would make for a much more natural flow if you inject some bits and pieces of your life which could certainly work in your favor.
For this to work, you need to be observant with the people you meet. Make use of cues to help you think of topics to talk about. For example you may compliment them on what they’re wearing, or you may mention that you graduated from a particular university – people like hearing these things and they may even work to your advantage.
Be mindful of your body language
Our gestures and mannerisms can say much more than our words can which often lead to misinterpretation. To help put yourself in a positive light, it’s important to remember that you’re trying to build relationships at networking events so do take note of how you appear to the other attendees. Saying the right things won’t mean much if you look bored or aloof while speaking. Instead, exhibit body language that conveys interest and openness. Actions like keeping eye contact with the person you’re talking to or showing a warm, sincere smile conveys interest and respect – as simple as these may be, they can go a long way when you’re trying to win people over at these events.
Adopt the “give and take approach”
Attendees of networking events often think of how they can benefit from joining. That’s fine, but also think about what you can contribute to the other attendees. You’re not only there to find employment and meet people. Your presence also means you’re there to share your talents and be of service to others.
Doing so will instill in you a sense of purpose, which can help put you at ease and become a lot more confident in approaching people.
Keep things in moderation
You may find yourself surrounded by the best-tasting food and drinks that the event has to offer but if you want to be taken seriously, try to stifle the urge to take too much of the spread.
Accidents can happen and it often happens around food. You’ll never know when a spill or two might occur so it’s best to take things in moderation. Don’t forget your table manners as well.
Be extra careful around alcoholic drinks. A drink or two may put you at ease but it’s better to steer clear of them as this is still an official business function and you’re expected to be on your best behavior. You want to portray yourself as someone who is dependable, and not somebody who’s ready to party.
After all is said and done, ending the event in high spirits is the right way to go about things. Be thankful for the experience and treasure all the good things you’ve gained because of it. Likewise, appreciate the fact that not only did you learn much from the experience, but that you contributed in enriching other people’s lives too. You’ll soon discover that these networking events are one of the best ways to enrich one’s career.