Sometimes people tell me that they find the idea of networking intimidating. It doesn’t need to be. Networking basically means meeting new people and making connections. It’s often associated with job searching, and it’s definitely a key tool in that process. However, networking can be valuable for anyone if it’s done right.
The holiday season is a great time for networking and meeting new people. Here are some ideas that you can use right away with your holiday networking this week.
1. Prepare what you’ll say when someone asks you what you do. If you’re job hunting, be ready to specifically state what type of job you’re looking for. People will remember if you make it detailed and focused, and you might get a referral to a job posting.
2. Bring business cards, and be ready to ask for a business card. You want to follow up the next day with an email note to solidify the connection, and of course, add the person to your Linked In network. Set a goal for the number of connections you’ll make at the event if that will motivate you to talk to more people.
3. Pump up your confidence before the event. Think about all the positive ways that this event could affect your career or business. Walk into the room as if you know everyone there. Do NOT think negative thoughts about yourself or your situation. Your mind is very susceptible to negativity. You want to keep your energy high.
4. Present yourself in the best way possible. If this is a business function, wear your best business attire. If it’s casual, I would still advise dressing slightly better than necessary. Whether we like it or not, visuals matter, and looking as good as you can is a must.
5. Be ready with small talk and open-ended questions. At a professional event, asking where the person works or what they do is the usual, and it can help you figure out how they can help you. However, be creative and think in advance of a question or two that will take the conversation to more interesting places. For example, when they tell you what they do or where they work, ask if that’s what they imagined their job would be when they were a kid. Or ask what’s the biggest challenge they’re facing in their job or business right now. Or what a success has been for them in the past year.
6. Listen! Everyone loves to talk but listening takes effort. Be prepared to listen and ask questions. Make the person feel like you’ve got your full attention. When you part ways, they’ll think you were the best person they met because you listened.
7. If you’re on social media, use the event as content for your twitter or Linked In feed. Keep it upbeat and positive. Including a photo give the post even more interest.
8. Smile. Even if networking is not your favorite, think of it as an action step toward your goals. Keep your eye on the prize, and enjoy yourself!