Networking events can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first one. However, you need to network to open the door to career-boosting opportunities. A new survey revealed that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking, so it’s important to start making an impression. Utilize the following tips if you’re just starting to get involved in the world of networking and aren’t sure where to begin.
Do your research before the event
With any networking event, you always have to do your research beforehand. First, you have to pick the right networking event to attend, as the events can vary depending on industry and field you’re interested in. Once you’ve decided on an event, do more research on the organizations and company representatives that will be in attendance. Take the time to review the open job opportunities that interest you so you have an idea of what type of candidate would be a good fit. Then when you’re speaking with those attendees from that organization, you’ll know the right topics to discuss and have the best questions to ask.
Prepare your LinkedIn profile
A strong LinkedIn profile is a necessary tool to market yourself for available opportunities. Before attending a networking event, you need to ensure that your profile is completely filled out and optimized. You should have a strong summary about yourself that describes where you are currently in your career and showcases your accomplishments. This way, you can use your profile and the LinkedIn network to make connections even before the event. Once you’ve done your research on who is attending, try to find and connect with them through LinkedIn. This will provide you with more information about their background and allow you to recognize them at the event.
Bring plenty of resumes
You don’t want to be handing out your resume to organizations throughout the event, just to run short when you really connect with a recruiter or hiring manager. It’s best to bring lots of copies of your resumes with you, as well as business cards, and keep them all in a professional binder or folder. This type of preparation will also highlight your attention to detail and preparedness.
Wear comfortable shoes
Networking events can run long and typically require standing for an extended period of time. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes that you can walk in, and most importantly, ones that are business professional. The last thing you want is to miss an opportunity because you were sitting down.
Prepare an introduction
Walking up to someone at a networking event can be nerve-wracking, so prepare a simple introduction (around 30 seconds long) that highlights your strengths and career goals.
A strong summary should include at least a few of the following items:
Once you have your pitch established, keep practicing it so that you can take the pressure off and allow a conversation to flow naturally.
Give a strong handshake
Your handshake plays a significant part in the first impression you will give to those at a networking event. When you initially meet someone, be sure to give a strong, firm handshake in order to display confidence and start the conversation on the right foot.
Have conversation for small talk prepared
Not every conversation you will have initially will be about a job search or potential career opportunity, so it’s important to have some conversation topics available at your disposal to avoid any awkwardness.
Smile and have fun
Your first networking event can be uncomfortable, but you will survive! Just remember that recruiters and hiring managers are also there to meet potential candidates interested in working at their organization, so there is pressure on them as well. Be sure to give a smile and have a good time conversing with interesting people.
After you’ve met people at the event, you should always try to follow-up with them in one way or another. Now that your LinkedIn profile is updated, connect with those you met. This way, your name and face can be reinforced in their memory. If you get someone’s business card, send them a quick email about how nice it was to meet them and to discuss their job openings or organization. This can go a long way and open the door for a potential opportunity in the future.
Attending a networking event can be a positive experience that will only help to boost your career. After your first one, you will continue to make connections and broaden your knowledge of the types of jobs out there for you. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t come across any potential jobs or opportunities on your first try. If you keep making connections and build your network, you are sure to find something that will accomplish your career goals.
Want more actionable tips to improve your networking and job search skills? Subscribe to the JOHNLEONARD blog below and receive advice right in your inbox!