- For those who are employed, networking offers you opportunities to learn and connect from industry leaders to gain insights into best practices.
- If you are seeking a new career, you are able to connect with team members from various companies to gage what new skills you need to gain and what possibilities exist in the industry.
- If unemployed, networking allows you to get noticed by potential employers. Even if the person conversing with you doesn’t have an available job now, you have the opportunity to make an impression on them for when they do have a job opening.
Preparation is key. Ensure your business cards are up to date. Ensure you have a professional look that is clean and polished and ready to go (ie: not at the dry cleaners). Write an elevator speech. An elevator speech is 30 seconds to 2 minutes in length. It signifies the amount of time you would have to impress a person when riding in an elevator.
Your elevator speech should be clear and focused. You must know your speech inside and out, backwards and forwards. The ability to swap out certain parts or change the order of the information based on the audience or the time allotted will result in a more effective interaction. The following questions will help you prepare your elevator speech (in no particular order).
Write your speech. Practice in front of a mirror or a friend. Try saying your speech with a pencil in your mouth to improve pronunciation.
- State your full name.
- What is your most recent job title (and company name, if currently employed)?
- What are you most proud of in your career or what do you enjoy the most about your current position (should be connected to what you want to do next)?
- What are you passionate about or what are you looking to do next?
- What do you value in an organization?
- What companies or leaders do you admire? Especially if unemployed, what companies have you applied to that interest you the most?
The last question is about making connections. You are not asking for a job. You are asking for connections - the goal of a networking event. People do not attend networking events to sit in the corner and not connect with anyone. People attend networking events because they WANT to connect with you and connect you to others. This is your goal.
Giving your elevator speech clearly and confidently is an effective networking tool. Active listening is also essential when networking. Having the opportunity to connect a person to another you've previously met leaves a lasting, positive impression on both of those people. Now, how do you find an event?
Find An Event
There are several events in your area that provide opportunities for networking. Happy hours, MeetUps, speaker series, trainings, coffee clubs, or events identified as networking. Most events cost a registration fee. You need to determine your budget for these events. Identify the events that will have the leaders or companies that interest you in attendance by checking sponsor lists, speaker lists, or if possible, the current participant list.
Events are hosted by
- local chapters of professional organizations (ie: SHRM, ASAE, HIMSS, search "national professional organization" followed by your industry)
- career coaches, transition consulting groups, or temporary employment agencies
- leadership nonprofits (search the term in your city)
- LinkedIn Groups
- MeetUp Groups (professional and social)
When showing up to an event, dress as if you were showing up to an actual job. You don't necessarily have to show up as you would to an interview. You do need to show up professionally. Take a few deep breathes in your car, run through your elevator speech one more time, and smile. Remember your goal, to make connections.
I've never had anyone turn down a free cup of coffee.
Post Event - Follow Up
The day after an event reach out to connect to people through LinkedIn. Remind the person where you met, what you discussed, and if applicable, thank them for any advice or information provided. An option is to end the message with a question to continue the conversation. The key is to keep the message brief.
If you attended an event via a LinkedIn group, stay active on the group homepage, bi-weekly (job seeker) or monthly (currently employed). Post an article relevant to the group's purpose. Engage with others who post articles through comments.
If you are a job seeker, give every person you encounter your elevator speech. It provides you with practice to become comfortable with the speech. And you have no idea who that person knows as a friend or a relative at your ideal company. Stay open to the possibilities and say "yes, thank you" to any suggestions.
Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
I'm an extrovert to the extreme. I love connecting with people. So, what are your hesitations about networking?
What have been your success stories or horror stories?