Network Like Your Career Depends On It
Networking can feel overwhelming for people, especially the introverts among us. It’s not something that most people look forward to, but it shouldn’t have to feel that way!
1. Decide your mission for the event in advance
- If you’re a Multi-Passionate (which so many of us are), it can be overwhelming to answer the “what do you do?” question.
- Based on the type of event you’re going to, decide in advance what you hope to get out of it. This could be help with something you’re working on, introductions to influencers, a new job, etc.
- Whatever it is, have a loose self-pitch ready and practiced before you arrive so that you focus your efforts on accomplishing what it is you came there to accomplish.
- For example, if you have a side business planning events, but also have a day job as a sales rep, decide which of those makes the most sense to talk to new connections about. If you’re trying to drum up business for the event planning business, don’t bother mentioning the sales job unless it becomes relevant in the conversation.
- When you introduce yourself with too many descriptors (“Well, I’m a this/that/the other thing”) people don’t know how to catalog you in their minds. You’ll end up in the miscellaneous pile, which doesn’t help you or them in the future.
2. Choose the right outfit for a killer first impression
- First impressions are a gateway into the world of opportunity. The way you look contributes heavily to creating a positive first impression.
- Networking lunches and social networking events can be tricky. You don’t want to dress in an overtly formal manner. Neither do we want to come across as casual and uninterested. For women, wearing separates will ensure a way where you are formal enough for a networking lunch but not overdressed. An example of this is a slim pencil skirt with a relaxed top. Men, a navy blue blazer, crisp white shirt, and khaki pants will get the job done.
- Industry Presentations and Conferences often attract movers and shakers in your industry. You need to look and feel confident and put together. Men, business attire or business formal is the way to go. If you are strutting a suit, opt for a navy or charcoal grey solid, pinned striped or plaid suit, and a blue, red, or burgundy tie. Wearing conventional colors will allow you to build trust.
- Ladies, you want to feel confident! You can achieve this by wearing a sleek shift dress with a minimal neckline that is hemmed at the knee. Opt for heels and sleek tote to complete the look.
- Cocktail parties provide an excellent networking opportunity. But deciding on what to wear can also be tricky when trying to balance formal and business attire. Let's start with color. For ladies, in a world of little black dress, wear white. White will help you stand out and people’s eye will be immediately drawn to you. A midi length dress, a sophisticated amount of skin, open-toed high heels, and simple accessories will add to your allure and interest.
- For the men, pick your best damned suit out of your wardrobe! Especially a tailored one if you have one. A solid, subtly striped or plaid suit with a well-fitted dress shirt and complementary accessories will have you looking the part. Avoid the dull stripes of the office and opt for a classy solid, geometric (repeating patterns), or printed silk tie. Geometric patterns are ideal for networking events as they show off a sense of style and sophistication.
3. Aim to talk to 5-10% of the people in the room
- If you walk into an event with 50+ people, aim to chat up 3-5 of them. When you take the pressure off yourself from having to meet everyone in the room, it frees you up to take your time with the few people you do talk to.
- Chances are, you’ll only really remember a handful of people anyway, so focus your efforts on really listening and asking questions of those you do meet.
4. Find a way to help them right away, and give them a chance to help you
- People inherently like helping others; it makes them feel valuable and needed.
- One of the ways I like opening a conversation is with a question like, “So, what are you working on these days?” By asking that instead of, “What do you do?”, you’ve allowed your new friend to share whatever they’re most excited about, which doesn’t necessarily have to be their paid job.
- As you listen to their response, be thinking of anyone you know who you might be able to introduce them to, or any resources you have access to that could support what they’re working on.
- In return, share something that you too are excited about in your own life (side gig or main gig), and incorporate a soft “ask”, such as, “I’ve recently started writing a blog about health and wellness technology, so I’m always looking for people’s favorite apps and tools that they use.”
- This gives them the chance to suggest their favorites, or connect you to someone who is currently building a health and wellness app.
- By offering to connect them, or share a link with them, it gives you an immediate reason to follow-up, and vice-versa.
5. Follow-up within the week & find a next step
- When you convince yourself to go to a networking event, you leave your house and muster the energy to talk to new people, and then spend a few hours actually doing it, to not follow-up in a timely manner is to waste all of that effort and time.
- Simply collecting a business card from someone and shoving it in your purse is not going to make that connection happen, so make some time the following day to send a quick email hello to everyone you met.
- If you found a way to help them, this is when you’d make good on your promise to connect them to someone, or share a link to something you mentioned.
- Even if you didn’t find a way to help them, this is where you can give them a quick reminder about who you are/what you talked about, and if it makes sense, set up time to grab coffee or hop on a call to talk next steps.
- I always immediately request to connect with them on LinkedIn, and in the note reference where we met, (“It was great meeting you last night at the Bossladies event! Looking forward to chatting more about X.”)
- Not every connection has to become something more right away, in fact most new connections take a while to pan out (if ever.) Don’t worry so much about getting something out of every networking event, just focus on adding new, enjoyable humans to your personal network. You never know who’s going to end up being someone that plays a super valuable role in your life.
Baily Hancock will host our free networking mixer on July 11. Just add to your cart and checkout to snag a spot!