Networking is key to finding that perfect job in the perfect place…and we all can agree you need to know someone to get the inside scoop no matter where you are. Here are some tips that we feel will help to make networking easier for you outside of your internship or college campus.
Find a buddy
If you’re an introvert, networking can sound like the most terrible thing ever. The way to get over it? Find a friend in your field who also wants to meet people. Having a partner in crime always makes things more fun, anyway. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be talking to each other the whole night, either. Prepare together, give each other pep talks, but be sure to divide and conquer, or work the room together.
Begin carrying personal business cards
… before you graduate. While they may seem a little archaic in the digital age, there’s no better way to ensure someone can get in touch with you. Sites like Moo.com and Minted.com make it easy and affordable to print your cards. “Stick to colors and design elements that say something about you without being distracting,” says Nicole Lapin, a financial expert and founder of Recessionista.com. “So, if pink really is your favorite color, use it as an accent on white and gray cards.”
Pay it forward
Help your friends and acquaintances out when you can as they’ll be more likely to remember your kindness and do you a favor when you need it. “Whether connecting a friend with a great job lead or a potential mentor,” says networking coach Deena Baikowitz, “good deeds and good karma will always pay off.”
Come up with a few talking points
It’s great to be able to tell the story of your professional life in two or three sentences—that way, if you get nervous or flustered at a networking event, you won’t trip. However, it shouldn’t just be about your skills, interests, qualities, and strengths. You should also be able to give a quick, descriptive example of how you applied those strengths. For instance, if you have great organizational skills, you can talk about an event you coordinated at your last job.
Try a new activity
Weirded out by the idea of attending a so-called “networking event?” Then don’t. “Find an event that involves an activity you enjoy such as a dance class, a running clinic, a wine tasting, or a fundraiser. You’ll have something in common to talk about and can avoid wandering aimlessly around the room.
Ask for advice
If there’s someone in your industry whom you admire, reach out to them and ask if they would like to grab a coffee. The worst they can say is no, right? And if they do say yes, this is a great way to find a mentor who you can call on for expert advice, guidance, and encouragement.
Act like a pro
A great way to be seen as the consummate professional is to act like a consummate professional. “Act, talk, walk, dress and think like the professional you’re trying to be,” says Baikowitz. “Get rid of slang language. Stand up straight, and don’t fidget or play with your hands. Look people in the eye, smile, and have a firm handshake.”
Don’t forget the small guy
“Whether you’re networking at a large convention or just meeting someone one-on-one for coffee, remember that your actions toward the other people in the room speak volumes to who you really are as a person,” says Lapin. So be respectful to everyone, from the CEO to the coat check guy. “We all got our start somewhere. Your graciousness will leave the impression that you’re willing to work with people regardless of the title on their business card.”
Manage your expectations
Just as most people don’t typically marry their first date, you might not find your dream job at your first networking event. Or second. Or third. “You must put in the time and effort to build relationships and strong connections,” says Baikowitz.