Let’s face it, networking can be challenging! This is especially true in today’s digital age, where it is all too easy to hide behind emails, texts, and social media. While these are certainly important tools for effective networking, you should never underestimate the value of an in-person connection.
However, not everyone feels confident walking into and making conversation with a room full of strangers. Yet, this is often what you must do in order to meet your professional goals.
While there are many different types of networking events, they all share one common theme: preparation is key. Whether you are an upcoming college grad attending an on-campus career fair or a more seasoned professional looking for your next big break, here’s how you can network with confidence:
Set goals: Are you looking for a new job? Are you interested in meeting likeminded professionals? Or, are you hoping to learn a new skill? Regardless of the answer, knowing your goal(s) ahead of the event is a great way to network with confidence. This will not only help you identify the right people to approach, but also prepare talking points.
Practice your elevator pitch: You only have a few short minutes to make a lasting first impression with prospective connections. To network with confidence, it’s important to be prepared with an elevator pitch, or a 30-60 summary of who you are, your goals, and what you can professionally bring to the table. Crafting and expertly reciting your pitch takes careful thought, so take this task seriously. Remember, practice makes perfect.
Be aware of your body language: Being able to project self-confidence through your body language is key to successful networking. Remember to maintain eye contact, keep your arms at your side, and smile. Body language that implies a lack of interest or boredom may deter people from approaching you, so make sure are aware of how you are coming across.
Ask questions: If you don’t feel comfortable doing most of the talking, asking questions is a great way to build an engaging conversation with a new contact. Inquiring about an individual’s interests, professional background, and their reasons for attending the event will also help you express interest in them. Since networking should always be a two-way street, this is key.
Follow up: The best way to stand out and forge a connection with a potential new contact is to follow up within 24-48 hours of the event. When reaching out, try to keep your email straight-to-the point and make sure you reference where you met and what you discussed. Stepping outside of your comfort zone isn’t always easy, but being proactive about expanding your network and seeing the results of your hard work will only help you network with confidence as you attend future events.