How to Take Advantage of Your Next Networking Opportunity

March 2016

It’s no secret that networking is critical to both jobseekers and professionals looking to advance their careers. For those on the job hunt, networking provides a chance to meet potential hiring managers and market themselves in a way that isn’t possible via a resume or job application. That being said, it is important for candidates to make the most of network opportunities by being aware of best practices. Whether you are seeking a new position or looking to expand your professional network, the below list of do’s and don’ts will help prepare you for your next event:

Do

Research industry-specific events
If you’re going to make the effort to attend a networking event, it’s important to do your homework to ensure you’re attending something worth your time. While you might have luck at a broad-based event in the city you live, finding an industry-related meetup group or a conference specific to your current or desired field of work is a great way to target your efforts.

Prepare an elevator pitch
The fact that you’ve taken the time to register and attend a networking event means you have a motivation for being there. However it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are prepared to clearly communicate that. Writing down and rehearsing a few talking points will allow for more meaningful conversations with those who have the potential to help you advance.

Maintain eye contact, speak slowly, and hold your drink at your side
Those are a few of the more important factors to consider when thinking about your physical presence at your next networking event. Other helpful tips? Mirroring the body language of the person with whom you're speaking and using non-verbal cues like nodding your head to communicate that you are listening will also help demonstrate enthusiasm.

Have business cards and a resume readily available
You never know who you might meet at a networking event, so it’s important to be prepared. Keeping a few copies of your resume in a purse or briefcase (or even your car) will certainly come in handy in the event that you meet someone hiring. Business cards are critical for both jobseekers and professionals exchanging information at an event and should always be on hand.

Don’t

Be timid
While attending a networking event with someone you know is certainly tempting, it can be a hindrance for those with introverted personalities. It’s important to remember that everyone is there for the same reason. Networking events aren’t just for those with big personalities, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Over-promote yourself
It’s important to clearly communicate what you’re looking for in conversations, but being too “salesy” can be a turnoff. Remember to treat those you’re speaking with as people as opposed to prospects.

Spend all your time in one place
We are all familiar with the dreaded scenario of being cornered by someone who never seems to stop talking. If you find yourself in a conversation that you no longer feel is worth your time, don’t worry about politely excusing yourself. You are there to meet people, and spending all of your time talking to one person is typically not in your best interest. Unless of course that person is your next big investor or future boss at your dream job!

While novice and seasoned networkers can benefit from following these best practices, these are just a few of the many important things to keep in mind at a networking event. That being said, it’s also important to just relax and enjoy yourself. Like most things in life, finding a balance will result in the most positive experience.