By: Brittney Bodden
WES Student Advisor
Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers and weren’t sure of the best way to approach someone and start a conversation? This is how it may feel at your first networking event. It may be frightening, but you are not alone. Networking is a great opportunity to socialize with business professionals, discover potential job opportunities, and create a list of contacts for future reference.
Here’s a list of tips to help you excel at a networking event:
1. Create a plan of action
To make the most out of a networking opportunity, it’s essential to have a plan of action. Never walk into an event without doing your research beforehand, it could end up being a waste of time for both you and the attendees. When strategizing, collect a list of attendees who may be of interest to you and your profession. Oftentimes the host’s website will include a list of companies that will be present along with the names of representatives for each company. The list may even include contact information such as email, LinkedIn profile, or phone number. Even if they don’t include contact information, you can still use the name listed to look up their profile on LinkedIn.
To get a head start, reach out to the representatives before the event and express your interest. Let them know you will be attending the event so they will be on the lookout for you. This will also give you a conversation starter when you meet face to face.
2. Asking questions is key!
The point of attending a networking event is to acquire as much information as possible from a wide range of resources. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, it shows your interest in the company and builds a relationship.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What are your primary job responsibilities?
- What experience did you have to get your job?
- What is a typical workday like?
- How many hours do you work in a typical week?
- Do you have any advice for someone at my level?
- What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
- What would make someone the ideal employee for your company or organization?
- What are some of the challenges you face in your position?
- What is the work environment like at your company?
- Are there any courses/workshops worth taking to learn more?
Don’t rely on your memory to absorb so much information in such a short amount of time. Bring a pen and notepad (or use your cell phone) to jot down any information that might be useful later. Notes will come in handy when you follow up with your contact because it shows you were actually listening and paying close attention.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for any additional information to stay in contact if it’s not listed on their business card.
4. Follow Up
After socializing with so many professionals, it’s important to follow up with a personal email or message on LinkedIn. It can be hard for the professionals you met to remember everyone they came in contact with. Sending a message shows your interest and it could lead to a personal connection.
A good rule is to contact them within 3 to 4 days after the event.
Many times, it’s not the contact that can help but their network of contacts they may refer you to. Overall, networking pays off if you ask the right questions, keep in contact with your network of professionals, and have a positive attitude!
Do you have any other tips for networking? Share them below!