Whether you’re a job seeker, business professional, or simply open to something new, this is a three-part series that provides best practices for beginners learning how to network.
If you’re new to networking, the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and starting conversations with people you do not know can be overwhelming. Networking, however, does not have to be a chore. If you go in with an open mind, it can lead to meeting new friends, learning about new industries or ideas, and even finding new business or career opportunities. While networking is a cornerstone for sales and building business, networking for job seekers is equally critical.
1. How to Network: Determine Your Goals
Why do you want to start networking? Maybe you are looking to make a career change and want to build relationships with other businesses in the area. Perhaps your business is releasing a new product or looking to grow its client base and you would like to open some new conversations. It could be you are simply new to the area and are looking to expand your professional network (or make some new friends). Whatever the reason behind your decision to begin networking, knowing what it is that you are hoping to learn and take away from the event will help your preparation for the event and will help you remain focused during the event.
2. How to Network: Preparing for the Event
Once you have found an event that interests you, the next step is to take some time to prepare for the event. Have a good understanding of what the event is. (Is it an after-hours meet-and-greet or a luncheon? Will there be a speaker or a topic of discussion?) If the event is around a certain topic or featuring a certain speaker, make sure you know a little bit about the speaker or topic beforehand and write down two to three things you hope to learn. If the event is industry-specific, see if you recognize or know anyone from any of the companies sponsoring the event.
The day of the event, ensure you have enough business cards on hand to distribute during the event. If you’re not currently working, having a personal business card with your information on it will make it much easier for potential new connections to remember you after the event.
Taking an extra few minutes to learn about the people attending, the event itself, and any other relevant organizations will help you feel more confident and at ease when the moment comes.
3. How to Network: Developing the Perfect Pitch
The easiest way to fight nerves before attending a networking event is to have a clear idea of what you plan to share about yourself before you go. When a business is trying to sell a product, it creates an “elevator pitch” about the product that succinctly and clearly describes the product in a short period of time.
When you’re meeting new people, you should have a similar pitch developed that succinctly and clearly describes a) who you are, b) what you do, c) what that means for the average person, and d) how you can help them. Taking the time to determine what your goals are for attending the event will also help you feel more prepared to network. Is there a certain company, person, or industry with whom you would like to become more familiar? Keep those goals in mind, but also be open to meeting all kinds of different people – you never know how a seemingly random connection or conversation may develop in the long run.
When faced with something new, feeling prepared and confident is half the battle. Whether it is a networking event, job interview, or business presentation, taking the time to determine your goals, do your research, and practice your pitch will help you feel more prepared, confident, and ready to go. We’ll be providing more tips on effective networking in our next blog!