Networking can be one of the best job hunting tools out there. It can also be nerve-wracking and a downright test of your communication skills. Aside from the underlying anxiousness that accompanies networking, most job seekers find that it is truly a great way to make connections in the given industry, swap insider knowledge, and potentially gain a mentor who can guide your career.
Business leaders who have experienced the fundamentals of networking early in their careers often look back and think about what they did right and wrong in these situations. Here are a few tips from people who have been there on what you should and should NOT do during a networking event.
What You Should Do Before Networking
Prep beforehand. This is key to having a successful networking event, especially if you are job hunting and want to make a great first impression.
Make sure you have any materials you may need printed and ready to go before the day of the networking event. For example, have multiple copies of your résumé. You may want to have several different styles and content depending upon what business leaders you are hoping to connect with at the event. In addition to your résumé, have a stack of your business cards printed and ready to hand out.
Before the event, you will want to practice your “elevator pitch” about yourself, your talents, skills, and past job experiences. Practice it enough to make it seem genuine and natural, not practiced and rehearsed. Make the statement just a quick background on yourself. A minute or two will suffice.
What You Should Do While at the Networking Event
As we said before, these events are stress-filled because they require you to walk up to total strangers and start a conversation about yourself and your goals. Again, be genuine, try to relate as a friend first before hopping into your pitch about yourself. Connect about anything from your favorite foods/restaurants to what you are currently binge-watching on Netflix. That connection will not only calm you down but make you more memorable after the event.
Many job seekers make the mistake of doing all the talking at networking events. In fact, you should be listening and learning at least as much as you are talking. You could hear about a job opening or insider knowledge about the roles in a company that is expanding. Anything you learn can put you at an advantage later.
What Not to Do at a Networking Event
Unfortunately, many job hunters get overwhelmed and go one of two ways: they either fade into the background and make no connections or monopolize the conversation. Try to find a balance between listening and conversing.
Aside from being too timid or overzealous, it is important to not oversell yourself. Be concise with the presentation you make about yourself. Don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your skills or abilities.
One strong warning we have for job hunters is to be moderate with alcohol at networking events. Sure, there may be alcohol and hors d’oeuvres provided but focus on your goals. Your main goal is to make connections and let others learn about you. Having food in your mouth when you really want to ask a question can be a problem. And imbibing too much sends a bad message to future employers.
If you need more help with planning your networking experiences, call or visit MassHire. We offer employment and training services for job seekers and employers.