Networking events can be daunting. Even the most outgoing person can face awkward moments at a networking event. However, they are necessary for making contacts in your field and expanding your network. Don’t skip out on the next event. Follow these tips to improve your networking skills – and actually have fun while you’re doing it!
- Be authentic
You don’t need to start every conversation with “what do you do?” Sure, it’s a great ice breaker, and can help you find common ground with someone, especially if you attend the event alone. But don’t let this conversation lead to “schmoozing,” meaning name-dropping, bragging, or just selling yourself. Focus on making true connections with people. Talk to a networker like you’re talking to a friend. Ask questions that do more than assess someone’s level of helpfulness or status.
- Show Genuine Interest
No every person you meet will help you get your next killer job or connect you to an amazing contact. But that’s okay. Be a good listener, and just enjoy meeting new people. When you meet someone in a completely different industry, still show genuine interest in their path. You might find other connections along the way, such as a common involvement in a nonprofit, or even that you are from the same area. Don’t write someone off just because they don’t seem “helpful” to you right now.
- Share your passion
In addition to listening to others, make sure you share what you’re passionate about! Even if it’s unrelated to your career, show your personality and take the opportunity to talk about your love of cooking, fashion, or travel. It will help you connect better and have a memorable conversation.
- Choose Quality over Quantity
Don’t leave a networking event with a stack of business cards of people you don’t remember meeting. Make connections that are stronger than social media and exchanging of emails. Spend time getting to know someone beyond their work life, and look for networkers who strive for the same level of decency. This will help you make deeper connections that will actually be more valuable to you in the long run. Networking to help your career can only be effective when you’re making quality connections, and demonstrating your own quality through interactions.
- Follow Up
After you meet someone interesting, don’t let the interaction fade into the distance. Follow up! Even if you don’t have an actionable thing to send to them, just a friendly “nice to meet you” email is great. Share an article you thought was interesting, ask a question that came up after your interaction, or connect on LinkedIn (do include a note!).
Your follow up doesn’t need to be strictly business. If you met someone cool that you want to grab a beer with, that’s okay too.
If you embrace networking as a fun way to meet new people, not a boring, necessary way to get ahead, you’ll have more fun. Relax, be yourself, and let yourself enjoy interacting with new, interesting people. You never know where they might lead you.