For some of us, walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating, especially if you’re one of the quiet types. With every step, the lump in your throat gets more constricting and your stomach feels like it could bottom out at any moment – much like climbing Mount Everest, I assume. While you can live happily-ever-after never having climbed Everest, networking is something you can’t really avoid if you want to make connections with the “Who’s Who” of the business world. Being able to network effectively is a great tool to have in your arsenal for career success.
Here are eight tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and network like a boss:
If you’re attending a networking event, do a little investigating beforehand. Find out who the host is and search their name on Google or LinkedIn. They could be an old schoolmate or maybe they recently achieved a milestone. A quick search can help you find a way to break the ice with the host of the event.
Dress Like a Boss
Ensure you are dressed professionally. Iron everything!
Just Do It
Take a deep breath before walking into the room. Keep your head up, shoulders back and stand up straight. Stepping into a room full of strangers gets easier each time.
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
No matter what you do or the purpose of the event, always come prepared with strong talking points. If you’re a job seeker networking with potential employers, ensure you’re able to convey how you would be an asset to the company. If you’re a business owner, who knows your business better than you?
Be prepared to talk about yourself or your business if the occasion calls for it. Keep your pitch short and to the point – no more than 30 seconds.
If you’re simply trying to make connections, go with casual talking points; something current or newsworthy like a new book or movie release will do. Try to steer clear from politics and religion.
And don’t forget to bring your business card if you have one!
Don’t Go Alone
Go with a colleague or friend. Having someone you know in the room can help calm your nerves. However, don’t treat your buddy like a crutch – be sure to mingle on your own as well.
Ask for an Introduction
If you know the host of the event, ask them to introduce you to some of their guests. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you know to introduce you around.
Focus on the Person Standing Alone
You might be a nervous wreck, but you’re not the only one. There’s usually someone standing in the room by themselves, likely just as nervous about networking. Make eye contact with him or her. Smile and introduce yourself. Find something to compliment, such as their shoes, briefcase, watch, and so on (but keep it professional, of course!)
Use your colleagues as guinea pigs! Don’t shy away from work events and staff meetings. Practise your networking skills by talking to people from different departments. This will help you get comfortable speaking with people and will also help improve your conversation skills.
Practise makes perfect, so implement some of the tips above to help you navigate any networking event.
P.S. – Keep in mind that a lot of people like to talk in general, so you’ll often find that sometimes all it takes is a smile, friendly introduction, and quick icebreaker to steal someone’s attention – and ideally lead to the next stage in your career!
Jodi Darby is a Business Developer with The Career Foundation’s Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) Program, and has successfully navigated her way through dozens of nerve-racking networking events over the past few years. Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn.