Networking. It seems simple enough, walk into a room, shake people’s hands, eat some appetizers and leave, right? For a lot of first-timers it’s not that easy. Picture walking into a room filled with some of the most prominent professionals in renewable energy and sustainability. What’s the first move?
Figuring out what to say, what to bring and what to do after the event can suddenly seem as hard as advanced calculus. But with some rules to follow and a little practice anyone can become a master of networking.
1. GET OUT THERE
Fighting the temptation to stay home and play Call of Duty is hard, but the best networkers know being active in as many groups as possible can be helpful in building networking skills. There are lots of groups to pick from too; there’s almost a group or organization out there for just about anything these days.
PRO TIP: Networking masters join groups because they’re not only a good place to start building connections but a chance to pick up facts and trends that can make them seem smart at networking events or interviews.
2. BRING YOUR A-GAME
Sometimes people stress so much about networking that they forget their networking tools. A giant networking fail. Avoid this blunder by showing up with an updated resume and business cards in-hand. It might sound weird to get business cards made without first having landed a job, but networking professionals trade those around like baseball cards. Take a cue from them and look into getting some business cards printed, it’s a great way to leave behind contact info. A quick Google search will bring up companies that can print them for less money than it takes to fill up a tank of gas.
PRO TIP: Bringing a resume and business card gives networking masters something to leave with the new contact they just made, which has the potential to keep the conversation going after the event.
3. LEAVE THE SECURITY BLANKET BEHIND
It’s easy to spot networking newbies at an event. They’ll be the people hiding out near the food table or staring at their phone. Networking pros on the other hand will be working the room and snagging the best connections. It seems safer near the appetizers table but staring at that veggie tray won’t lead to a job. Leave that comfort zone and make an effort to speak to other attendees.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget the masters started as rookies too, but by putting themselves out there they soon realized that networking isn’t as scary as it seemed.
4. PLAY THE LONG GAME
Breaking it down, networking events are the perfect opportunity to rub elbows with some pretty important folks who aren’t normally that easy to access. But talking to these big shots isn’t just about scoring an interview or adding a LinkedIn contact. Attending networking events also has the potential to pay off big and lead to a long-term mentorship.
PRO TIP: Not everyone at a networking event has an immediate job to fill. But, networking masters know it’s worth talking to them. Building relationships is key in any industry, and could lead to bigger and better things in the future. Anyone doubting the value of mentorship and relationship building just needs to look at what Rihanna’s famous mentor Jay-Z has done for her career.