Networking isn't an activity many people enjoy, but you can learn to be good at it. Here are our top tips.
Networking: the mere mention of the word fills many people with dread and causes them to break out in a cold sweat. But it doesn’t have to be that scary. In fact, it can be life changing and important. (It’s how I, like many others, got my start in the industry.)
Why is it so crucial to job hunting? It’s all about making connections and building relationships. Face-to-face events are a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression on people you’d like to get to know, opening up the possibility of a new job. They also give you a chance to learn about new projects in your industry and even to get business and career advice.
And as the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
While we tend to think of networking as a formal event with a room full of strangers with name badges pinned to their shirts, this is not always the case. For example, a few weeks ago I was at the local park walking my dog and talking casually to a group of neighbourhood people I see almost daily. Among them were a site supervisor, a personal assistant and an accountant. Two of the three worked in mining and I had no idea about this until we started a conversation about work. You never know whom or what might present themselves once you get chatting to people.
However, if you do find yourself attending a formal networking event, and you’re not exactly an aficionado, here are some simple strategies that will come in handy:
Mentally prepare yourself
Be prepared to chat about yourself and work matters at length. Most of us aren’t terribly comfortable with this but practice speaking about yourself, your background and your interests. Write them down beforehand if you like — this might help jog your memory at the actual event.
This is an effective strategy because there will be fewer people at the beginning of the event and everyone will be eager to meet a friendly face. If you arrive when there is a room full of people, it will be much harder to approach others.
Chat at the registration desk
You can get an idea of who is coming in and if they’ll be useful to talk to in-depth later on. This is also good for shy people who are nervous at the thought of intruding on a group of people who are already engrossed in conversation.
Meeting new people can be nerve-racking. The task of simply remembering their name can be challenging, let alone carrying on an interesting conversation. It’s better to be engaged with what the person is saying, showing sincere interest, and thinking of possible follow-up questions or details they could expand on. If you don’t remember their name, you can always politely ask their name again as you say goodbye or take their business card.