Networking and fun almost never go hand and hand; It’s either business or party, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Career networking can start off as business, but you can also enjoy yourself, I mean you did get dressed up, enjoy the occasion.
In college, networking was something I feared and dreaded; I thought I could by-pass that step and somehow get to my career, and it worked until it didn’t. Circa 2019 I had to begin networking to promote my memoir because it wasn’t going to sell itself. Here's what I learned.
Dress for Success
Dress for the job you want, not the job you currently have; and in this situation, you’re dressing for the career you want, so everything must be together. Make sure you’re professional and representing yourself and your niche well. First impressions are lasting impressions.
Practice Your Elevator Speech Beforehand
Your elevator speech is essentially your sales pitch. It’s short and to the point and long enough to keep a person’s attention. Practice a brief presentation about who you are, what you do, and what you’re about several times at home until you’ve got it memorized. This will also help you move about the room quicker, and get to the “play” part of the event sooner.
Walk into the event confident and open-minded. You don’t know who you’re going to meet, and how they can potentially change your life. Be open to the possibility of what could be. Smile, (don’t shake hands because of COVID-19), and after you’ve introduced yourself and your brand leave them with a business card or two.
Work 1st, Play After
Many networking events I’ve attended come equipped with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Save that for later, you want to meet and greet as many people as possible. It’s okay to take a break and indulge, but I find it best for me to work first then relax with a glass of wine and a plate of food afterward. Professionalism is watched at these events.
It may not be possible to meet everyone but try and converse with as many people as possible. Don’t just go up to the CEO or manager, talk to people that are there for the same reasons you are; who knows, you could refer each other to the perfect people for your careers, or even meet a new friend. As it is said, “treat the Janitor with the same respect as you would the CEO”. The Janitor could very well be the CEO.
Enjoy the Experience
Career networking isn’t all stiff suites and uptight CEOs; The food is always great, and plenty to go around, and so are drinks (if you drink alcohol). In most cases, you’ll meet people you never would have otherwise. My bank invited me to my last networking event, and I had the best time. The food was amazing, the speakers were engaging, and the ambiance was on point. I had so much fun that it didn’t even feel like a “work event”.
Now that you have the tools to career network at the highest of your capabilities, you should be ready for your next event in no time (well once the world opens back up form quarantine). Use these suggestions to get you on the fast track to success. Networking is a mind-game, if you go in with low expectations, that’s what you’ll get, so stay open-minded and work the room. Best of luck, you’ve got this!