So, you’ve found yourself at a networking event. You have my congratulations and condolences. Networking is the number one way to find a job. Networking also can be an annoying journey into meaningless conversations and sweaty palms. It’s up to you. Here are a few tips for survival.
Practice your stalking abilities. There should be at least a few people at the event who sound like they could be interesting or maybe they just look interesting. Ideally, they will also be someone that you can learn a thing or two from and ultimately even help your career. Peruse the sign-in sheet, registration list or attendee name tags to find out who may be worthy of a conversation with you and then plan your attack.
Talk about the weather. While the thought of talking to new people can cause sweat to pool, don’t be a victim. Come prepared with a handful of go-to topics that you can use to start a conversation, e.g. the crazy weather, the awesome event location, etc. Once you’ve broken the ice, you can comfortably launch into your story and what you are hoping to get out of the conversation.
Move on from the losers. Inevitably, you will get stuck with someone or a small group of lemmings who you just can’t shake. Pump them for any good info or insight they may have and then excuse yourself for a bio break. Hopefully, they won’t follow.
Hang out by the food. If all else fails, people will be stopping the refreshment area for snacks and drinks. Strike up a conversation about the chicken skewers and see where that takes you. Just don’t let your fellow attendees confuse you with the caterer.
Keep your promises. Don’t be a one-night networking stand. If you say you are going to follow up with someone; do it. Prove your credibility and ability to be a solid networking contact. Otherwise, networking karma can come back and bite you. And it will hurt.
Does anyone really like networking? I’m sure some people can’t wait for an invite to a networking event, but if you’re a normal person; you just have to suck it up and do it. But, be careful; you may actually have fun and meet some decent connections.