Whether the words “networking event” institute a frenzy or a state of resigned acceptance in your mind, it’s become both a fine art and an indisputable part of modern business. The numbers don’t lie: a 2016 LinkedIn survey showed that 85 percent of participants had landed their current job thanks to networking.
In an era where both client relations and LinkedIn profiles are becoming increasingly important, networking is yet another way that the professional is getting personal. It’s all about making an impression and coming across as genuine, while striving to distinguish yourself from the pack.
If you think networking is exclusively for young professionals, think again. Here are some proven tips to master the fine art of networking:
Authenticity is key.
There’s someone else in a navy blazer, with their resume printed out, leading off with a firm handshake. So, naturally, the inclination is to want to match that presentation and sing your own praises, or to take up an air of sophistication to distinguish yourself. Don’t. The heart of networking is the fact that it’s relationship based. Be the person that you’d want to have some sort of relationship with.
- Smile. It goes a long way.
- Be genuine. Don’t embellish what you’ve done or what you can bring to a company. It’ll catch up with you in the long run, and you’ll only have so much to say about these overstatements. It’ll tarnish the authenticity of the conversation – whether you notice it or not – and affect the way you’re coming across.
- Find common interests. It’s the “how ‘bout them Bills?” mentality. Put yourself in the recruiter’s position, and realize that they’ll talk to everyone about their background in finance, but only a few about more personal interests.
Have meaningful conversations.
You’ll be memorable if you have a lively and real conversation with a recruiter. There are likely to be dozens of people at any given event who had the same undergraduate major. This doesn’t mean you should just quit while you’re ahead, but rather, remember that a little specificity goes a long way.
- Name names. Remember that networking events and sites like Facebook share a similar social model: both focus on the common contacts between two people. If you’re referencing a company you interned at or a client you freelanced for, drop names. It boosts your credentials, and there’s a chance you might have a mutual friend or client with the person you’re speaking with.
- Use “a time when…”. It’s one thing to say you had the experience, it’s another to share what you got out of it. When prepping for an event, ask yourself: “when was a time I was challenged? When was a time I had to be a leader?”. Getting specific about your experience in this context shows that you’re committed to your professional growth.
- Practice good communication skills. Make eye contact, speak audibly and confidently, maintain good posture, and stay focused on the conversation at hand.
Open yourself to learning.
There are perceived limitations in networking when an individual feels like they got nothing out of the experience individually. To ensure that this isn’t the case, remind yourself that no one, no matter years of experience, is ever above learning something new. Look to the business representatives at networking events as sources of information.
- Ask questions. Many believe that not having any questions at the end of a job interview gives a negative impression, and the same may apply for these events. Have a couple of go-to questions to close out a conversation, whether it be career advice or a request for contact information.
- Prep yourself. Having a set plan going into events will help guarantee that you’ll get some benefit out of networking. If there is a master list sent out before the event of what businesses will be represented, pick your top 5 and try to seek them out. Print some business cards and resumes to make sure you have something to provide other guests to keep your name in their mind.
- Talk to peers as well as recruiters. There’s the possibility that you can learn as much from your fellow networkers as the people representing a business at any event. Ask others what has and hasn’t worked for them in their own professional development, and share your own expertise as well – someone else may learn from you!
Space Between can easily be used to host your next networking event, or serve as an ideal space for your group to discuss what comprises the fine art of networking. The Escarpment, Towpath Hall and Canalside Patio are all viable options that offer a spacious area and informal setting that is perfect for networking.
Stop in and take a tour of Space Between today, or call us at 716-433-7688, ext. 104 to learn more.