Archive for February, 2011

Networking 102

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

So you’ve decided to attend your first networking meeting…..

Here’s a simple handy-dandy list of suggestions that should make the event go smoother.

BRING:

Business Cards–The goal of this is connecting with people, right? Well, you can scramble around for a pen and spare scraps of paper each and every time you meet someone, or you can have a stack of business cards you can hand out. It doesn’t have to be terrible fancy or have a sophisticated design. Just something with the essential information on it: your name, your phone number, email address, and the URL to your LinkedIn profile will do very nicely. It would also help if there were a line or two about your job title or what makes you special, but if you can’t manage that, leave some space on the card so that your new contacts can write that information in themselves.

A clean, professional appearance–This probably doesn’t need to be said, but that could go for everything in this post. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be meeting someone who’ll be directly hiring you, it is still important to make a great first impression. So don’t treat the event as if it’s casual hour. But at the same time, you don’t need to be on formal evening wear. You’ll be probably be just fine with casual business wear.

A friendly ear and desire to communicate–You will be talking to quite a few people. Not all of them will be able to help you, I’m sorry to say. The only way to determine this is by talking with each other for a little while. Be courteous and patient; this isn’t speed dating. Even if there is very little common ground between the two of you but the other party seems friendly and helpful, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t change in the future. Once you get back home, look that person up on LinkedIn and ask them to join your network to make keeping in contact easier.

DO NOT BRING:

Inflated Expectations–You are looking for connections, nothing more. No one will be offering you a job at a networking event. At best, someone will make arrangements to meet with you for an interview at a later time. So don’t get your hopes up falsely. What you should keep in mind is the main theme in my Networking 101 blog post: everyone at a mixer is there to answer a single question, “What or who do I know that can help this other person?”. That goes for you, too. Try to find out the other person’s needs and do your best to come up with a resource or person that would solve that need. If not, keep that problem in the back of your mind and as you network more, see if a new contact can solve some of your older contacts’ problems. (We’re probably getting into Networking 201 here….)

Slime–That’s right. Slime. And it isn’t a Ghostbusters reference, either. If you’re at a networking mixer trying to get a new job or meet new contacts, you don’t want to come across as a fountain of negativity. Even if your current job sucks (hey, frankly, it happens) you don’t even hint at this when you’re talking to other people. Your boss is a jerk? Incompetent management driving the business into the ground? Keep all of that to yourself. Put the most positive spin possible on your job search. Because it reflects on you as much as if you had shown up to the mixer in torn and muddy clothes. No one in a successful position is going to help someone spewing slime at their first meeting, no matter how friendly they seem. Your acquaintance won’t go any further than the mixer. Say as little as possible about anything bad going on with your career and put the best spin on things that you can.