Networking Makes Even the Best of ’em Nervous Sometimes
posted by Jessica Styles
Let’s face it, networking can be nerve-wracking. Attending an event alone…Walking up to strangers…Everyone is in groups chatting but you... If any of these situations give you a bit of anxiety, don’t fret. This article will help you break down networking barriers and hopefully alleviate some of your unwanted fears.
Step #1 - It’s important to do your research so that you are clear on the mission of the event, the backgrounds of featured professionals and the event logistics (host, time, venue, date). Based on this information, put a game plan together so that you know what to wear, what time you should arrive, who you want to speak with, and what your overall objective is for attending the event. The goal is to come with a boost of confidence because you are prepared. My personal rule is this: If I get dressed, put on makeup and swipe my metro card, I am challenging myself to meet at least three new contacts. Seriously, I stick to this rule. Perhaps this challenge will work for you. Feel free to steal it! Ok, so the first step is complete. (Great job!) Now let’s move on to…
Step #2 - You’re at the event and probably thinking, what do I do now?! Here’s the game plan: the goal is to comfortably circulate the entire room and get face time with the professionals you have identified as those you want to meet (based on the program details). It can be intimidating to strike up a conversation with people you don’t know, so you could always give a compliment, start up a one-on-one conversation in the restroom, introduce yourself at the bar/food area, ask an open-ended question, such as “Are you part of this organization?” or “How did you hear about this event?” or simply introduce yourself. After all, it is a networking event and professionals should expect to have conversations with new people. Use these icebreakers to engage in a real conversation (obviously, have your elevator pitch prepared) and come with business cards. You may want to write notes on the back of the business cards you collect so that you can remember the personalized conversation you had and send a tailored message after the event. So, you prepared for the event and met at least three new contacts, awesome! Now, there is a…
Step #3 - “Follow up.” After attending the event, be sure to deliver on the promises made, such as sending an introductory email, emailing your resume, connecting on LinkedIn, or sharing a resource. This is actually the most critical piece. If you meet great professionals and you never follow up, then Step #1 and Step #2 served no purpose and you’ve wasted a metro swipe. Time is money nowadays. Make sending your introductory email a priority. (And never expect the other person to send an email first.) Always take it upon yourself to take charge and make initial contact. And lastly, work hard to turn that business card into a meaningful and fruitful relationship. Networking is simply the first step in achieving your goals. It’s what you do with the connection that makes all the difference!
By Jessica Styles, Career Advisor