5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Networking Event

By LiveCareer

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The term “networking event” applies to any gathering or social activity that might:

  • Introduce you to professionals in your field.
  • Give you the chance to converse with new contacts.
  • Catch up with existing ones.

Chat with strangers about your professional experience.

So in other words, a networking event means any event. If you’ll be meeting with any number of people from two to two hundred, and you’ll have even one opportunity to talk about yourself and your career, then here’s some news: you’ll be networking.

Here are five ways you can use this social gathering to move your career forward, especially if you’re on the job market.

1. Get the lay of the land before you dive in.

When you walk in the door, don’t just grab and wring the first hand you see. Act like you would at a party with friends and acquaintances. Move into the room calmly, and help yourself to a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Keep your expression open and relaxed, and get a feel for who these people are and what they’re doing here. Observe the mood of the room and the rhythm of current conversations before you engage. Don’t rush.

2. If you don’t recognize anyone, that’s okay.

If you see a friendly and familiar face, move in that direction. But if you don’t, don’t worry. If you stay calm and observant, you’ll get a feel for the strangers who are most likely to connect with you. Chances are, some of them will approach you and introduce themselves.

3. Have your elevator pitch ready.

Have some prepared (and practiced) answers to the following three questions: what do you do? How did you get involved in that field? What would you like to be doing? Chances are high (about 100 percent) that you’ll be asked all three of these questions before the event is over. Know what you’ll say.  Keep your answers smooth, positive, clear, and interesting.

4. Listen more than you talk.

Listening is an art form, and in order to master it, keep these three things in mind:

  • Everybody loves to talk about themselves. So let them.
  • When someone mentions something they need or want, tune in. Is there a way you can help?
  • Engaged listening and cow-faced silence are not the same thing.

Ask relevant questions, care about the answers, and disclose your own information when the moment feels right. Don’t stare blankly expecting the other person to launch into a monologue.

5. Keep your expectations reasonable.

You don’t have to win the whole match in one round. If you leave the room without five awesome job offers in hand, that’s fine. Career building is a long game. If you make just one real human connection, have one interesting conversation, make one positive impression on someone, or learn one new thing about the world that you didn’t know before, consider the event a success.

Networking happens in funny ways—random coincidences, dropped names, casual references, and shared interests are the breeding ground of great new relationships. But for these small seeds to grow and bloom, you’ll need to nurture them and give them space. Embrace serendipity, relax, listen, and look for the good in others. You’ll be reaping the benefits in due time, if not this very night.    

LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Facebook and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.

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