Most everyone struggles with networking in some way. If you are a shy person, it can feel intimidating and uncomfortable to initiate conversations with strangers. If you are an uninhibited talker, you may have a hard time actively listening to others. Unfortunately, all these components and more are critical for making connections and having a successful experience.
No matter who you are or what your personality type is, everyone can benefit from brushing up on networking basics. We have the advice you need to avoid common pitfalls so count on our expert networking tips for guidance and prepare to ace your next event.
Networking Tips for Everyone
I Don’t Like to Talk
1. Desensitize Yourself
The mere thought of striking up conversations with strangers in a crowded room is enough to trigger anxiety for quiet types. Before you head into this stress-provoking scenario, get some practice in familiar settings. Try initiating conversations with new acquaintances at school or work.
2. Know Before You Go
Don’t be a deer caught in the headlights. Before your event, spend some time researching the specific people you would like to meet. A great way to generate talking points is to do preliminary research. Find your potential connections on social media or LinkedIn and browse their feeds for interests you have in common.
3. Beat Burnout With a Reasonable Goal
Feeling like you have to talk to everyone is an introvert’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, at a networking event, there is no need to do this; rather, your goal should be to make just two or three strong connections. These strong connections are more valuable than 10 fleeting conversations. By setting realistic expectations, you can avoid burnout and still have a successful experience.
4. Opt for Small Group Interactions
Brian Magrath, a trainer and staff development specialist at Education First, understands mingling with large groups of professionals can be intimidating. One of his best networking tips? “Seek out one-on-one conversations or interactions with just two or three people at a time. This way, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed.”
If you find yourself in a large group, look for another person who looks just as intimidated as you. Invite that person to chat away from the group, or to accompany you to the refreshments table.
5. Plan Your Exit Strategy
When the event is over, resist your natural urge to sprint full speed from the room. Exchange business cards and leave the door open for future communication with meaningful connections. Afterwards, locate your contacts on LinkedIn and send follow-up emails. In your message, touch on topics that you discussed to help job their memory.
I Talk Too Much
1. Make a Point to Listen
As a social butterfly, talking may be your forte and you may inadvertently forget to stop and listen. You can beat this instinct by adhering strictly to the 60/40 rule. Listening should be your priority and speaking or asking questions should take up just 40% the conversation.
2. Get Comfortable With Silence
Do pauses in conversation make you feel nervous, so you just start rambling? Pump the brakes! Magrath recommends extroverts wait a minimum of three seconds before filling the silence. “The other person might have more to say. He or she could just be formulating the next thought.” In networking, it is critical to give others the chance to express themselves.
3. Spread the Wealth
Although it may be an innocent habit for you, dominating the conversation is not an effective strategy. Let others bask in the spotlight and avoid interrupting when they are presenting their ideas. If you sense you are talking too much, correct course and hand over the conversation by asking someone else a question.
4. Watch Your Words
We all know a relative or friend who is prone to divulging too much information. Don’t be that person. Although you may be capable of communicating effortlessly, remember to be mindful of your words and speak with brevity. Additionally, watch out for repetition. “If someone has already said what’s on your mind, there is no need to restate it,” says Magrath.
5. Engage With Quieter Personalities
When you are outgoing, it can be easy to overlook quieter types. You never know, however, if one of these subtler personalities could be the connection that gets you the gig you are hoping for. Use your friendliness to your advantage by approaching quieter people. Dig in seize the opportunity to become acquainted with them.
I Just Need Networking Help
1. Be Prepared With Business Cards
Business cards seem like a no-brainer at networking events, yet many people forget them or underestimate their value. Always come prepared. Additionally, do not disseminate them to everyone you meet. Wait until you have a meaningful conversation with someone before exchanging personal contact information. Then, jot down specifics about that connection on his or her card or in your phone.
2. Look the Part
One of the best networking tips is “dress for the job you want.” Although these events are more casual and lower pressure than an interview, you should dress as if you’re going to one. Opt for professional attire that makes you feel confident. You do not want people to remember you as being inappropriately casual or sloppy.
If you work in an industry that calls for more casual clothing, then search the event page for pictures of past events. Note what other people wore.
3. Make a Strong First Impression
You only get one opportunity at a first impression, so make it a good one by maintaining eye contact and offering a brief but firm handshake. State your name clearly and listen to the other person’s. If you struggle to remember names, try repeating the name in your head and using it three times in conversation.
4. Focus on Connections, not Job Offers
It’s easy to go into a networking event hoping you will get a job offer, but if this is all you’re after, potential connections will see right through you and will be less likely to consider you in the future. Instead, focus on building meaningful relationships.
5. Be Authentic
In a networking scenario, you may feel pressure to be someone you think other professionals will like, but it is always better to be your authentic self. The last thing you want to do is start any relationship off with a lie. Instead, try to get to know others by being inquisitive and asking meaningful questions.
By incorporating these networking tips into your strategy, you are sure to leave your event with at least one or two promising connections. Be prepared for what happens afterward with a strong cover letter and resume. You can take the next step toward getting an interview and a great job with MyPerfectResume’s customizable resume builder and cover letter templates.