One activity that many people find nerve-wracking, I find fulfilling – it’s networking.
As an extrovert, I enjoy sharing stories and experiences with new acquaintances, I’m energized by socializing, and I quickly come off as open, friendly and approachable. Sure, these qualities make networking easier for me as I naturally gravitate towards crowds and I find making conversation easy. However, there are other aspects to networking that are equally as important.
Here are my tips on how to make networking enjoyable, instead of a hassle:
Adjust your mindset and alter your beliefs on what networking is supposed to be. Many people view these events as high-pressure environments when in reality, networking is just meeting people. It’s about building relationships and developing yourself as a professional. Instead of going into the event wanting to secure a new job, you should take the opportunity to ask recruiters or people in the industry more questions about the role, field, responsibilities, etc. Find out if it’s really a fit for you. Not only does this show your interest and help you develop rapport with the right type of people - they will also remember you, which makes getting the job that much easier down the line. Personally, I enjoy attending events to discover more about potential career paths, to meet new people who may give me advice or help me at some point in my career, and to learn about new opportunities in my community.
Do your research about the attendees. Use LinkedIn to see who’s talking about what event. This can help you target the right people and make the most of your time at the networking event. Create relevant questions during your preparation phase if you’re worried about blanking out while speaking to a charismatic recruiter, or the CEO of a large company! Preparing in advance is equally as important as being physically present at the event.
At the networking event, ask the right questions. Some of my favourite standard questions (in no particular order) include: What motivates you? What’s your favourite part of your job and why? How did you get into your current role? How long have you been with your organization? Are you a member of any professional associations? What’s the most important skill you believe is needed for a career in your field? What advice would you have valued when you were in the early stages of your career? If you took the time to prepare, you should have an idea of the type of people who will be at the event and should feel more comfortable when it comes to executing. In addition, ask for their business card before gracefully exiting the conversation, and make sure to thank them for their time and their insights. Once you leave, take one minute to jot down the main insights you retained from your discussion with the professional.
Don’t forget to do this within 24 hours of meeting someone. It’s as simple as sending an email (which should be on their business card) thanking them once again for their time, briefly summarizing the main insights which you noted, and including anything you promised to share, like more information on the club which you’re part of at school.
The reality is, networking is an essential skill that all business students should be comfortable with. Not only will it help you build out your future opportunities, but it helps you become more comfortable with speaking about yourself, your skills, and your career goals - which can be particularly good practice for future job interviews!
Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the (not-so) tricky world of networking and relieve some pressure before you attend that next networking event.