Successful networking comes with its fair share of perks—landing a new gig, moving up the corporate ladder, and, more importantly, growing your web of organic connections in business. Granted, no one wants to revisit the feeling of being the new kid on the first day of school without knowing a familiar face, but throwing yourself into those uncomfortable situations of mingling and handshakes can turn out better than you might think. Plus, it’s no secret that building interpersonal professional connections is one of the keys to having a prospering career.
The ability to make connections at networking events, happy hours, and coffee encounters isn’t one that comes naturally to everyone. But, it is a vital part of growing your business and making moves in the career world. Show up with your head held high, and get ready to network like a pro.
Do your homework
Research the event and what kind of professionals are going to be in attendance beforehand. This will ease nerves of not knowing what to expect, as well as getting you ready to have a more natural conversation with the people there. Take it one step further and look up companies and the people there on social media. Mentioning what you know about their mission and values could be one more thing that puts you ahead of the other attendees.
Early bird beats the nerves
It may be cool to show up to a friend’s get together fashionably late, but for a professional event, arrive earlier than the rest. If you’re nervous, this gives you the chance to meet people without the surrounding chaos or the pressure of feeling rushed.
Play to your strengths
Embrace your quiet nature or extroverted spirit and go into the event being your authentic self. If your elevator pitch isn’t your strong suit, don’t rely on it. Practice being an empathetic listener instead, engaging in thoughtful conversations and remembering tidbits from those you meet. Stop trying to sell yourself to the other person, and instead ask yourself, how you can help them?
Attend to the details
First impressions are key at networking events. With so little time to make a lasting impact, it’s vital to remember the small details that could set you apart from the other guy. Repeating someone’s name back to them, smiling, having a firm handshake, and maintaining eye contact and open posture are all components to keep in the back of your mind when working the room.
Get follow-up details
While the whole point of networking is to build lasting connections, ironically enough, getting the follow-up information can sometimes slip your mind. Remember to write down a fact about each person you want to remain in contact with after the event, either on a notepad or even on your phone. This will help you craft a well thought-out email when you get home. Bring a professional bi-fold with you to store the business cards you both hand out and receive. (Don’t stick them in your pocket!) And since you never know when you may make an especially strong connection, have a few copies of your resume on hand as well.
Networking doesn’t have to be an intimidating obligation, rather it can be a way to garner the most rewards from of your professional life. Sign up for the next networking event with confidence and go into it ready to work the room like a boss.