Networking has become an essential part of career development. These days it’s likely that you’ll land your next big project or job based on who you know rather than via a traditional recruitment process.
Here are some tips for navigating networking events to get the results you want.
Make like a scout and be prepared
Research the event you’re attending so that you’re familiar with the subject matter, the speakers and, if possible, the other delegates attending. Have some conversation starters and industry-related talking points up your sleeve. Rehearse your ‘elevator pitch’ to tell people who you are, what you’re experienced in, what you’re working on now, and where you’re interested in going.
Set yourself a clear and achievable target for the event, such as talking to 10 people and getting their business cards. Manage your time so that you can achieve that goal. And remember: you’re there to develop relationships not to close deals, so you don’t need to be all salesy!
This may sound obvious but observing ordinary social conventions at networking events will stand you in good stead. Be polite. Listen to others attentively and don’t just talk about yourself. Be brave and mingle. If you see someone who’s isolated, go and say hello.
Networking is about reciprocal relationships, so don’t focus solely on what others can do for you – think of ways you can give back and contribute to a community of likeminded professionals.
If the person you’re talking to isn’t relevant to your work but you know someone else who could benefit, introduce them! You’ll be remembered as a referrer, which is valuable in networking terms.
Make nerdy notes
Going to a networking event and subsequently forgetting who you met and what they do is a total waste of time. While it’s all still fresh in your mind, make notes on everyone you met and what you talked about.
Whether it’s a quick email or a LinkedIn invitation, cement your new relationships by following up in the day or two after the event. Consult your notes so that you can reference specifics about your discussions.