With restrictions easing up, in-person networking events are making a comeback.
After what felt like living in a computer screen for two years, many of us are anxious to get back out in the world. Although online networking events were an option, the screen and comfort of a home office created a bubble of safety that doesn’t exist in traditional networking. With the world starting to recover, it’s time to brush up on our social skills and get back out there.
What is networking?
Networking is all about meeting people and building relationships. Networking can occur almost anywhere but often happens in casual business settings.
The ultimate goal of networking is for professionals to connect and help each other grow and advance in their careers.
Why is networking important?
Your network is one of the best ways to job search, whether finding a new role or a vacant role in your current company. It’s all about who you know and not what you know. Many open jobs are unadvertised, and your network can help you uncover the hidden job market.
Beyond the job, search networking can boost your social wellbeing and professional confidence, open opportunities to exchange ideas with like-minded people and help you meet individuals at all professional levels.
5 tips to get you ready for in-person networking events
- Start small
- Have a goal
- Acknowledge the elephant in the room
- Avoid too much ‘me’ talk
- Follow up
Sometimes we can’t just hit the ground running. If you have a big networking event lined up, ask some colleagues or your current connections out for some coffee. Think of it as a warm-up exercise. Meeting up with people you already know shouldn’t cause too much stress, and it will be a great opportunity to brush off those social skills and maintain your current connections.
Have a goal
If you go into the event blind, you’ll most likely get overwhelmed. Instead, think about what you want to accomplish before your event. Set out some goals for yourself as a jumping-off point. When going to a networking event, you should have clear goals and intentions. Examples of goals might include introducing yourself to 10 new people or introducing two sets of colleagues you think will mesh well. Having a plan allows you to focus on the quality of your connections and not the quantity.
Acknowledge the elephant in the room
You’re probably not the only one feeling butterflies in your stomach. It’s been a long two years, and for many, this might be their first in-person event since pre-pandemic times. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re nervous or slightly uncomfortable. You’ll be surprised at how many “me too’s” you hear back. It’s a great way to break the ice, and once it’s all out in the open, you can move on to creating those new connections you set out to do.
Avoid too much ‘Me’ talk
Networking is all about building relationships, so avoid the mentality of wanting to be the most interesting or the most qualified in the room. Practice those active listening skills and try to dig into what is troubling people. When networking, you still want to talk about yourself but redirect it in the way of how you can help others.
Once you leave your event, be sure to follow up. Try to make this as natural as possible, and the conversation should flow. In a notebook or preferably the notes on your phone, compile all your new connections to avoid letting them slip through your fingers. When following up, try to stick to one method to keep your follow-up in one place. You can use LinkedIn, Facebook, email, text, whatever you choose, just stay consistent. You must maintain your connections once you’ve made them, and that’s through the art of the follow-up.
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