One of the most important things you can do for your career is make positive connections with others in your industry. This can seem intimidating—whether you’re a total introvert, or if you’re the life of every party. However, networking can open the door to new opportunities.
Experts say that 80% of jobs aren’t even posted—they are found through good old word-of mouth referrals. So, how do you network without coming across like that sleazy salesmen type? How do you make a positive impression on the people you meet, from industry events to the break room of your own office? Check out these tips for networking, effectively.
Remember, the CEO had to have started somewhere too. He or she is just another regular, real person you’d like to get to know. Breathe, and be calm and comfortable in your own skin, so you can let your fantastic personality shine. Head honchos are often more impressed with someone who is green, curious, bright, and talented, rather than someone who walks into a room touting why he or she is so great. Above all else, just be yourself.
Dress for Success…And Comfort
Now is not the time to take those brand new stilettos for a test run. Look professional and stylish, but also be comfortable. You want to focus on being fabulous, and meeting new people, not on how much longer you have until you can ditch that itchy blazer.
Don’t Talk Too Much
Sometimes when we’re nervous, we tend to blab on and on…and on. Try to keep it short and sweet when you meet someone new. Rather than worry about "selling" yourself, why not ask a few questions, and just listen? Some good starters: What got you involved with fill-in-the-blank project? How long have you been with this company? What do you love about your job? It doesn’t have to be an interview, but have some go-to questions to get the conversation flowing.
Take a Cue
Watch other people’s body language when you’re talking. If they seem distracted or busy meeting others, politely excuse yourself. Feel free to pass off your business card and follow up another time when his or her attention isn’t so divided. Another helpful tip—follow up after you meet someone, either by email or on social media. A quick "nice meeting you" message will definitely make you someone to remember.
When you get to a meeting or event, don’t stick with the one person you know, never leaving your seat. Move throughout the room, and start with a goal in mind of introducing yourself to at least two people. If you’re too shy, go stand in line at the bar, or even the bathroom, and strike up a conversation. Or, have someone you do know introduce you. Another good tactic is to sign up to help at the event—like setting up or passing out nametags.
Introduce Others Thoughtfully
Ever see Bridget Jones’s Diary? It’s a classic, and we can all relate to at least one of the awkward social encounters in it. This is a great piece of advice though: Introduce people with thoughtful details. Give a little more information about each person’s background when making introductions to help break the ice and get a conversation started.
Be Nice…to Everyone
Whether you’re talking to the owner of the business or the maintenance crew, always be kind. It shows your true character when you respect the hard work that everyone does. Basic manners are essential—you never know who is listening, who does what for a living, who is connected with whom, or whom you will bump into again.
Who knows you better than you do (besides your mom)? Think about the skills you have acquired and how they can benefit a potential contact. Be ready to discuss two or three honest qualities about yourself that would stand out. Be able to effectively articulate what you do and what your goals are. You don’t have to brag, but the point of networking is getting to know people, and letting others get to know you.
Going to networking events aren’t the most fun thing in the world. It can be very anxiety inducing for even the most outgoing of individuals, especially when relatively new to the workforce. Go into it with a positive mind, and that will help boost your confidence, and let your exceptional qualities really show.
Watch Your Body Language
Are you that awkward person who never knows what to do with your hands? We’ve all been there. Hold a drink as you mingle so you don’t have to think about it. Be conscious of fidgeting, playing with your hair, or other mannerisms caused by nerves. Don’t look bored or annoyed—be approachable.
Don’t Drink Too Much
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Don’t get drunk—everyone will remember you, and everyone loves to gossip. Don’t be that person, just don’t.
Get on LinkedIn and make connections—with former coworkers, college friends, classmates, or professors, current coworkers, and recruiters. Also follow companies that you have worked for and ones you want to work for. Keep your resume and profile up-to-date as well. Facebook and Twitter are also good networking tools, just be careful what you put out there (you really don’t want your boss to see those bikini or partying pics).
Don’t look at networking events as these awful schmoozing "rub elbows with all the right people" conventions—instead see them as an opportunity to make lifelong connections with people who can potentially help you succeed in your career goals.
Want to love Mondays? It’s possible when you love what you do. Paradigm is a San Diego staffing agency dedicated to finding the perfect job for candidates like you. We’re connected with some of the most innovative tech companies around, giving our employees that competitive edge needed in today’s job market. We hope to hear from you today, and let's make your career goals happen.