Networking is one of the most important skills you can obtain. However, networking functions may seem intimidating and you may think you do not possess the skills necessary to achieve success at networking events. But fear not because this blog will break down the dos and don’ts of networking.
Networking events are designed for people to help you, as well as for you to help others. This is both a give and take. Prepare yourself for what you want to get out of networking (new contact, job opening, new client) but also be prepared to help others (listen for a need, put them in touch with someone else you know).
Your first real interaction with someone will start with a typical handshake. Tips for quality handshake are:
- Match web
- Grip slowly
- Show feeling/character
Furthermore, if you miss your handshake, be sure to retry it until both of your hands dock in order to achieve a quality first impression.
If you are at a networking event that provides food and beverages, be sure to hold them with your left hand. You may have to stack your glass and plate together, but freeing up your right hand for handshakes will prove beneficial.
Safe Zone vs Networking Zone
Avoid using safe zone questions when talking with people. Safe zone questions include:
- What’s your name?
- Where do you work?
- What’s your job?
- Local sports teams
Instead, use this opportunity to learn about someone beyond just basic conversational questions. Ask questions that involve:
- Common interests
- Resources needed
- Connections needed
- How can you help them
- How can you get help
The best execution of this process would be to start with safe zone questions and then move the conversation into the networking zone.
The purpose of a networking event is to meet new people within a short time frame. If you come with friends, be sure to deviate from the group and not just stand around and talk to the people you came with.
Furthermore, when you meet new contacts, be sure to only spend about 10 minutes at the maximum conversing. If your new contact is someone you wish to continue talking to, exchange contact information and keep the conversation going after the networking event. Talking to the same contact for too long will hinder your chances of meeting other possible contacts.
After each networking event makes sure to follow up with the people you connected with on a meaningful level. Ask each person out for coffee and connect with them on LinkedIn. Don’t just stop there though. If you had a nice time conversing with them over coffee and you see a mutual benefit to growing your relationship, then invite the person out for lunch. This process is very similar to dating. You start with a connection and build a relationship.
It doesn’t matter if it is your first networking event or your one-hundredth networking event, attending these types of events and increasing your contacts will help to further your career. Even if you are happy with your current state of employment, meeting new people professionally will allow you to have the opportunity to advance your career in the future. The more events you attend, the more likely you are to meet fantastic people who can help you succeed!