How many times have you heard, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?”
I’ve seen that time and time again, especially when it comes to career networking.
One of the most important things you can do professionally is to network. Whether in-person or online, creating positive relationships in both arenas can pay off as you grow through your career.
But networking can be hard. And awkward. And overwhelming.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to make these events less uncomfortable and more successful. Here are 6 helpful tips to navigate any networking event like a star.
1. Review the Guest List
If you are like me, the idea of entering a business reception or cocktail party without knowing anyone sounds like a daunting task. If you have access to it, review the list of guests to see if any names are familiar. Dive into LinkedIn and do your research. You may find someone you have a lot in common with or someone who is on a career path that interests you. These details can give you a sense of purpose and level of confidence to keep any conversation going.
Once you arrive, try to identify the real movers and shakers in the room, if you can, and introduce yourself. These people can get you started off on the right foot.
2. Strategize Your Outfit
When you dress for the event, dress professionally, of course, but add something with a little flair. Perhaps a tie with a fun pattern, an eye-catching necklace or unique scarf that someone can compliment. Your clothing choices can make great icebreakers.
3. Find the Right Placement for Your Name Tag
Once you are in the room, you’ll likely be given a name tag to wear. To make it easy to see, place it on the right side of your chest, above the breastbone, so it is in line with your handshake. This way, whenever you shake hands, your new acquaintance can see your name easily and avoid any awkward glances when trying to remember your name (which will inevitably happen, as it does to us all!).
4. Mind Your Table Manners
Most people tend to head toward the bar first, whether to relieve a bit of awkwardness after arrival or build up a little liquid courage. While you can enjoy a drink, don’t over indulge yourself.
For the food, it is best to stick with finger foods that you can eat easily in one bite. Tables are often at a premium, so attempting to balance a plate, silverware and a beverage while trying to meet people and shake hands can be a challenge.
5. Always Follow Through
As you hear about upcoming initiatives, you may want to consider volunteering your help or offering your resources (so make sure you have your business cards in an easily accessible location). However, if you do volunteer, be sure to follow through. Above all, don’t overcommit and then under deliver. If you are willing to help and honor your commitment, others will be more likely to help you in return.
6. Find Online Networking Opportunities to Support Your In-Person Efforts
While online networking can’t replace in-person networking, it can be a powerful supplement to your efforts. One of the most supportive networking opportunities at your disposal is your alumni network. Both TESU students and alumni can join AlumniFire, an online networking and mentoring platform that allows you to offer help to fellow grads, get career advice, and post and find jobs.
Overall, networking is all about respect and trust. Be truthful about who you are and be consistent with your personal brand. These experiences can get you in the door for a job interview or for a coveted community volunteer opportunity, but your attitude and behavior are your next steps for continued success.