This is a guest post from Michelle Barbeau considers herself an authority in resume writing and provides free resume critiques. She also works as Careers Editor at iGrad.com and teaches Freshman Composition at a local university. Contact her at NextResume@gmail.com. You can also find her career blog at careerconfidante.wordpress.com.
You often hear older, more experienced professionals say that networking is the ultimate key to getting your ideal job, typically stated, “It’s all about who you know.” For some, this social skill comes very naturally. For others, like myself, it takes a conscious effort.
Either way, when you are a young professional, getting taken seriously when networking can be a struggle, especially as a female. I’ve been to mixers and other networking events before where I just kinda stood there, stuck close to one friend or co-worker, and did little to get my name out, mostly out of nervousness. When I leave, I feel discouraged and mentally berate myself for not taking advantage of the opportunity. I’m normally not this way in other social situations, but successful people are intimidating, aren’t they?
If you ever want to get to a point where people are trying to make connections with you, rather than the other way around, become a strong networker. When you go to networking events, or any event for potential “branding moments,” go prepared. Do the following things:
Have a healthy stack of business cards on you and keep them in an easy to reach place. This is important at organized networking events, but also when out with friends in more causal environments, especially if you’re single. I recently made it a habit to keep all of my purses stocked with business cards. I give them out regularly now to males and females a like, in all types of social environments. Even if you don’t have a job, create a basic business card with your contact information and speciality. Vistaprint is a great site where you can get cheap cards.
Dress the part. Have you ever heard that it’s better to overdress than underdress? This is especially true in professional situations. At networking events, at least be dressed in business casual attire, even if the event is at a bar. It will make you look older and more mature. If you have glasses, wear them. I swear it helps!
Have your elevator spiel ready. When networking, you don’t want to spend too much time with one group (unless an exceptional conversation regarding a business opportunity comes up). Have a 30-second pitch about yourself ready to go and listen to everyone elses. After you have made your connections, branch out to another group. Don’t know how to introduce yourself and make yourself sound interesting? This article might help.
Keep the drinking to a minimum. Don’t have more than two drinks, especially if you’re drinking hard alcohol or wine. You’d be surprised (actually you probably wouldn’t) about how a buzz might make you a little too open. We’ve all had those moments when we said something a little personal that we wished we hadn’t. Also, watch for wine-stained teeth (or something in your teeth!).
Don’t speak badly of your current job or situation. You’ve heard the six degrees of separation rule, right? You never know if the person you’re talking to knows your boss or knows someone who knows your boss. Plus, if you want to make a good impression, don’t look like a complainer. No one wants to recommend someone like that to others. Think positive energy.
Remember names and have a strong handshake. Make a conscious effort to remember people’s names and have a strong handshake. As ridiculous as it is, everyone notices a weak handshake, which unfortunately could indicate a weak character. When you decide to wrap up a conversation, let the person know it was nice meeting them and say their name when you do. Trust me—you will stand out from the majority who don’t make the effort.
Ask questions. Don’t do all the talking. It’s polite to return questions like “Where’d you go to college?” or “How long have you been in the industry?” in any conversation. You’ll probably find out you have something in common, which will lead to a stronger connection. This will also prove that you’re not a selfish networker; you are truly interested in others’ backgrounds. You might even learn a thing or two about how to progress in a career by listening to the steps others have taken.
These tips should help you feel more comfortable and be more productive at your next networking event. For more tips, watch this video for a humorous, yet informative, take on this issue.