Have you ever gone to a networking event, met a lot of people, and then nothing ever resulted from it? This is a common situation, but when you are seeking to advance your career, you absolutely cannot afford to not take full advantage of networking opportunities. A study by the outplacement firm Drake Beam Morin, revealed that 71% of jobs are filled through networking. Here are 7 ways you can prepare for your next event.
1. Think of topics you like to discuss– How to start a conversation is a common fear among networkers. Tackle that fear by thinking of things that you like to discuss such as movies, books, hobbies, traveling, pets, or kids. This mental preparation helps with conversation starters.
2. Know who will be at the event– If at all possible, get a list of who will be attending. If you can’t obtain a list before the event, go a little early and ask the organizer for the information and then identify who you would like to meet. Look for people who are associated with organizations you would like to pursue. Having a plan gives you a sense of purpose and eliminates the fear that you will be aimlessly walking around.
3. Know what message you want to convey- It is important that you think through in advance what you would like your networking contacts to know. If you are in job search mode, be prepared to tell them what positions you are seeking, what companies you are targeting, and what you do well. This is sometimes known as an “elevator pitch” because it is short enough to say to someone that you meet in an elevator. You may want to practice it on a friend so that you feel comfortable with your delivery.
4. Prepare some questions in advance- Questions such as “Are there any other events that you would suggest that I attend?” or “Who else might you suggest that I meet?” may give you valuable information.
5. Track your contacts- The magic of networking is transforming a contact into a mutually beneficial relationship. The only way this can be done is if you follow up with the person. Ask for a business card or at least, get an email address. At home, either develop your own tracking system or choose one that you can use consistently. The most important thing is that you are able to easily find the contact information when you go to follow up with the person.
6. Know how you will follow up- A way that I like to continue the relationship with a contact is to ask if they are on LinkedIn. If they are, I go home and immediately ask them to connect. If they aren’t on LinkedIn, I send them an email telling them how much I enjoyed meeting them. Depending on the person, I might also ask if they would like to meet for coffee. This is an easy way of furthering the relationship.
7. Think how you can give back- Author and speaker Bob Burg says “The successful networkers I know continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.” Networking should be a two way street with both people helping each other. Think about how you can give back to the person who has helped you. Giving back could be in the form of emailing an article or a fact that may be of interest to your contact. It may be passing on some information about an upcoming event or training. Giving back may even mean introducing your contact to someone whom the contact might benefit from knowing.
Networking is a wonderful way of building relationships that lead to new career opportunities, so be intentional about your networking. Take time to prepare for your next event. You will be greatly advancing your career potential if you do so.