Networking can seem like a daunting experience, especially when you don’t feel you have the tools necessary to be successful, or you haven’t experienced the true value of networking first-hand.
A big part of successful networking is the time you put into preparing for an event, your attitude and demeanor at an event, and your follow-up afterward. Plan-ahead and put your network to work with these nine easy tips:
1. Create a Plan
Many networking events share a list of people or employers who will be attending. Make a list of the people you want to connect with during the event, then spend a little time researching their backgrounds, career paths and current projects. This way you'll make the most of your time building new relationships during the event.
2. Bring a “Networking Buddy”
Ask a friend to attend a networking event with you. A “Networking Buddy” can be a great source of encouragement at the event and can act as a “home-base” between connections.
3. Practice your “Elevator Pitch”
The “Elevator Pitch” is best described as a 60 second commercial you create to introduce yourself to others. An “Elevator Pitch” is a great a way to differentiate yourself from others at an event while sharing your unique attributes. This technique has four key elements:
- Your name
- Your current position and the organization/institution you’re associated with
- Something unique about yourself (an expertise or a passion)
- A firm handshake
4. Networking & Food
Eat something light prior to an event (a small piece of dark chocolate can help with anxiety). If you eat something at the event, grab a small portion, and carry breath mints with you. Re-check yourself in the mirror; you don’t want to be the person with food in their teeth or greasy hands.
5. Use “The Wedge” Technique
While at a networking event, you might fall into some situations where you’re unsure of when and how to enter an existing conversation. Enter the "Wedge." This technique can be used if two guests are speaking together and maintain a 45 degree angle opening in their position to one another. Move in, introduce yourself to both guests and join the conversation.
Pro Tip: If you're flying solo, chances are someone else is too. So when the wedge technique isn't an option, look for someone else standing alone. Walk up, introduce yourself and start the conversation. And don't forget to leave your own 45 degree angle, chances are others will want to join you.
6. Take Business Cards
Business cards are a simple way professionals share their contact information with new acquanintances. If you don’t have business cards, don't fret. You can easily and inexpensively make your own with an online service. When it comes to design, ensure that your name and contact information are legible. Highlight your expertise or industry somewhere on the card.
Pro Tip: Seasoned networkers add the date and a conversation note to the back of business cards they receive during events. Notes help provide detail and context for post event follow-up.
7. Connect on Linkedin
LinkedIn is a profession and employment oriented social networking service. It helps you manage your online professional identity, build and engage with your professional network, and follow industry insiders. Use LinkedIn as your first outreach to your new connection; add a personal note or reminder in the invitation to connect.
Pro Tip: Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date before reaching out to new contacts. LinkedIn includes a link to your profile in the notification users receive when you invite them to connect. So,chances are your new connection will visit your profile before or after accepting your invitation.
8. Send an E-mail
Not everyone signs into their social networking sites daily. If you send an LinkedIn invitation to connect, also send an email. Your email should include a reminder of how you met and an invitation to meet again in person. When you invite someone to meet in person, it is important that you provide 3-4 days/times that you are available so that your new contact can check their calendar and quickly schedule a meeting.
If you e-mailed your new contact and/or sent an invitation to connect on LinkedIn more than a week ago and they haven’t reached out, try giving them a call. Be brief, but remind them who you are, where you first connected, and why you’re reaching out.
Pro Tip: In the age of technology, we have grown to expect immediate responses. Always remember to be patient and kind when reaching out to new contacts. Thank them in advance for their time and consideration, and give them time to reply to you.
Need additional support?
The alumni association's monthly Bear Network Live online career chats connect you with professional career advisors and alumni representatives to answer your career and networking connections. Use these online chats as an opportunity to prepare and refine your networking skills prior to attending an upcoming event.