CONNECTING AT NETWORKING EVENTS
- If possible, make one or two connections before the event and arrange to meet at the event.
- Go to the event alone! Don’t hang out with friends or people you already know.
- Set a goal before the event, for example, I will connect with six new people tonight. A goal should not be to see how many business cards you can collect.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion.
- Pick up a nametag. Put your career/job goal on your resume as well as your name.
- Keep one hand free to allow yourself to shake hands with people without juggling drink, food, or other items.
- Be prepared to offer help as well as receive. Be ready to tell others what you can do for them, and then follow up and do it.
- Bring business cards and a pen in a pocket or easily accessible. You can create virtually free business cards from various internet sites. When you give someone your card, personalize it! for example, handwrite your cellphone number on it. write notes on the back of business cards you collect about the contact.
Making the Connection
- Initiate a conversation with someone who is standing alone.
- Have a few great conversation starters. Compliments work well! Have a one-liner to use when joining a group.
- Don’t barge into a larger group. Ease in, make eye contact and gradually join the conversation.
- When you introduce yourself, include what you do and why you are attending the event (what you are looking for). Be concise. Ask follow up questions about to information shared with you.
- Be well-prepared to answer “What do you do?” with a concise, positive response. For example, respond that you are in transition and seeking a great new opportunity in the (your career) field.
- During a conversation with a new contact, use the other person’s name two or three times. Ask them questions. Make good eye contact. Listen carefully to what they have to say.
- Have a few good questions you could ask anyone in the room to jump-start a conversation that has gone dead.
- Politely excuse yourself when leaving a conversation.
- Know when to stop talking!
- Send follow-up e-mails within 48 hours, preferably the day after the event.
- Organize collected business cards. Add date and where you met the contact on each, along with notes about any special interests as an additional reason to keep in touch.
You never know whom you’re going to run into on the bus, the train, at a party, or other unexpected setting. Suddenly you find yourself speaking to an expert in your desired career field, or the head of the most prestigious employer in industry.
How do you introduce yourself? What do you tell him/her about yourself? What kind of questions do you ask?
The best tactic is to be well-prepared in advance! Prepare and practice a short summary of who you are, what you would like to do in the future, and the type of help that you need to get you there:
I’ll be graduating from Loyola University Chicago this spring with my degree in English. I’d ultimately like to use my technical writing skills in trade magazines, particularly relating to the travel industry. I would really appreciate any advice you can give me. Would you consider setting up a short appointment for an informational interview to help me explore my career goals?
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE & MEETINGS
Join a local professional association and volunteer to work at one of their conferences or meetings. Many associations have special student memberships.
Volunteer activities bring you in direct connection with people in your chosen career, particularly in the nonprofit industry.