Meeting new people, leaving a good impression, relating to folks on a personal level... unlike family gatherings or company conferences, networking events ensure that everyone is on equal footing to start. Regardless of whether you’re just entering the work force or you’re aiming for another job within your industry, the right networking event can take you to the next level in your job search. No pressure. So how do you make the most of these events? What can you do to get consideration for more of these job opportunities? The answers are actually a lot simpler than you’d think.
What Networking Events Can You Opt For?
There are a few different types of networking events. These include:
Mix and Mingle
These are meet-ups where people work their way around the room chatting with other professionals. Organizers often aid the process by putting out snacks and opening with icebreaker games.
Mini-Conferences or Speaking Engagements
This type of event features a keynote speaker who gives a short talk. Usually the networking takes place before and after this main presentation.
Food has a way of turning strangers into friends. A sponsored breakfast, lunch, or dinner lets people introduce themselves in an informal setting. As a job seeker, you can pick and choose according to what fits your personal schedule.
The Clothes Make the Person
Some people get nervous at networking events because they worry about being judged by other attendees. Let’s get this out of the way: of course they’re judging you. Proverbs like “never judge a book by its cover” wouldn’t exist if people didn’t often make assumptions based on appearances. The best way around this is to follow the dress code. If there isn’t one specified, then you should assume the standard is business casual. After all, you don’t want to end up being overdressed at a barbeque. For both genders, this means pressed buttoned shirts, dress shoes, understated accessories, and no jeans. If you're a woman, a simple dress (nothing too short or too low cut) with a pretty scarf or blazer is a good option.
Saying the Right Things
Networking events are like first dates. You have to be careful what you say in the beginning or you could find yourself in hot water. Politeness is a given and you’ll have to take special care to avoid monopolizing the conversation or focusing the discussion too much on yourself. It’s not just about not being a boring conversationalist. It’s actually in your best interests to listen carefully. If you allow prospective employers to get a word in edge-wise, you’ll soon hear what’s currently on the minds of these decision-makers. Once you know what types of problems the company’s attempting to address, you’ll have a better sense of how you want to position yourself in the conversation. Tip: Start by asking questions. No need to get fancy. "How did you learn about this networking event?" or "What company are you with?" should be enough to get a good conversation going.
The Reason Everyone Came
Many people think that networking events are about leaving a good impression. Here’s the full truth: networking events are an excuse for people to exchange contact information. So when it comes time to ask for a business card, there’s no need to get nervous about it. In fact, the card itself is a convenient excuse to see if you can get permission to connect online as well. Be confident.
Closers Really Do Get All the Money
People leave thousands of dollars on the table each year by making the easily correctable mistake of not following up. For job-hunters, this happens for a number of reasons. They don’t want to be annoying, they get busy and forget, or they assume that they’ll automatically be called when an opportunity makes itself available. Polite and passive just isn’t the way to go in this economy. The go-getters are the ones who get hired. If you’ve been given contact information, don’t hesitate to make a phone call or send an email. It’ll show potential employers that you really are a self-starter as opposed to someone who’s just sounds the part on a resume. Networking events are a simple concept that people have been aiming to perfect for years. After details like clothing, talking points, registration, and knowledge of following up has been worked on, however, it’s ultimately up to you to take the next step as you network. What are you waiting for?