Is there a more profitable way to navigate a networking happy hour than to grab a drink and a snack and start mingling? Yes, and our networking event tips will help you make the most of it instead of heading straight home after a long day.
Your time is valuable. Networking with intention increases the benefit you will receive. These events are meant to be so much more than social occasions. They are opportunities to grow a career, a business, or those highly sought-after soft skills. As the career development experts at Top Resume say, think of networking events as a key component of the “lifelong evolution of your career.”
For job seekers, networking events are opportunities to connect with new people who might be hiring or know someone who is. According to research cited by Payscale, 70-85 percent of new jobs are obtained through networking.
For professionals who are satisfied with their current employment situation, such events are excellent ways to build their professional network by finding a mentor or someone who needs a mentor, a strategic partner, or clients. And when the day comes that they are ready to make a career move, they are known entities to more people who can propel them forward.
8 networking event tips
Whatever your situation, follow these networking event tips to get the most out of the experience and maybe even enjoy it a bit more.
Networking events come in various formats, so you should be able to find some that fit your style. Check into professional or industry associations in your field, your alma mater’s alumni groups, and community organizations. Local chambers of commerce are often open to guests at informal coffees or lunch-and-learns for a small fee. Local business journals also publish a list networking events each month. Once you get into the networking mindset, something as normal as your child’s baseball practices where parents gather can be useful.
Present yourself well.
Dress professionally, stand tall, and smile. If you’re nervous about meeting a room full of new people, remind yourself that’s why everyone came. Take plenty of business cards. “If you are unemployed, you still need a basic card with your name, contact information and something about the role you seek,” advises career coach Arnie Fertig, writing for U.S. News & World Report. We suggest you include the URL to your LinkedIn profile, too.
Set realistic goals.
If your idea of “working the room” is to put your business card in the hands of everyone there, adjust your thinking. The purpose of networking is to make mutually beneficial connections; how will you know whether that’s the case unless you have an actual conversation? A realistic goal might be to meet and chat with five individuals you don’t know.
Plan to spend more time asking open-ended questions than talking about yourself. Listening and showing genuine interest in people is one of the best ways to be memorable. Make eye contact and hold it while the other person is talking; continually scanning the room will signal lack of regard for the speaker. In the setting of a networking event, you’ll need to adjust your elevator pitch to fit naturally into conversation.
Enter conversations smoothly.
Sometimes people you want to meet are already talking with others. It can feel awkward to insert yourself without seeming to interrupt. “There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break in the chatter to introduce yourself,” says Darrah Brustein writing for Forbes. “In most cases, the people who are already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them a chance to meet someone new.”
Meet the organizer.
If it’s the first time you’ve participated in a particular networking event, introduce yourself to the organizers and thank them. Ask for their cards and follow up with a brief, cordial email.
Follow up appropriately.
Make a connection on LinkedIn with a quick, friendly message about meeting. Alternatively, a brief email would be appropriate. If you believe a follow-up one-on-one meeting makes sense, suggest a few times. Do not automatically add every contact you make to an email marketing list.
Become a regular.
After you’ve tested a variety of networking events, choose a few that seem promising and return regularly. When you are recognized, others will think to refer you more readily.
Beyond the networking event tips…
We agree that a robust professional network is a key component of career development. So is working with a trusted recruiting partner. Reach out to our Bradsby team today to begin the process of finding the match that will advance your goals.