How Anyone Can Learn To Love Networking Events
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One of the most important thing you can do for your career is learn to love networking.
Networking can take you to the next level of your career. Going to events and meeting people face-to-face is singlehandedly the best way to meet people who can help you with your career, and I’ll share a secret with you: everyone, in a way, is there to meet you.
However, not everyone will approach you first. One of the first steps to learning to love networking is learning to break the ice yourself. It’s a lot easier than you think, despite what you may think if you’re a Quiet Girl (or Guy) like I used to be.
A simple, “Hi, my name is __, it’s nice to meet you!” accompanied by a handshake can go a long way.
If they tell you their company name and/or job role (or you notice it on their name tag) use that as a starting point to springboard the conversation. Ask them what they do in their role, what they like about their company, and let the conversation flow from there.
Every person at the networking event is there to talk to someone new, so chances are very likely that they will be open and friendly when you approach them. Plus, everyone likes to talk about themselves, so their receptiveness to your conversation increases tenfold when you take a minute to get a better understanding of what they do and why they are there.
Another important step to learning to love networking is to embrace how important it is.
When you attend networking events, you are giving yourself the opportunity to shine in front of new people, and the connections you make will shape your career (just be sure to follow up with your new contacts by with a follow-up email or handwritten note and a LinkedIn request!)
These new contacts offer unlimited opportunity: collaborating on creative projects, extending job and internship offers, connecting you with other important contacts, the list goes on and on. But you can’t meet these people if you don’t push yourself to attend networking events.
It’s crucial to learn this early on because the best place to network is in college. Take advantage of the college fairs and networking opportunities that your college has to offer. These are great because everyone is essentially there to coach you and make you a better networker.
Related: 7 Ways to be Better at Networking
Events like these are harder to come by once you graduate, and networking becomes a bit more of an effort (but well worth it).
Where To Find Networking Events:
So where do you find networking events to attend? If you’re in college, check with your career center to learn of upcoming events. When I was at Niagara University, there was always plenty of career fairs to check out, and they had an excellent program known as Job Fair Bootcamp that helped you prepare your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and elevator pitch so you could enter a career fair feeling confident and aware of your personal brand.
One of my favorite events was the Dining for Success Etiquette Dinner, which gives students and opportunity to networking with alumni and potential employers, while learning proper etiquette for a business meal (another crucial skill to have!)
This event was great because you learned how to properly eat in front of business professionals (which can be more intimidating than networking itself) and you got a free meal out of it (essential for the classic broke and hungry college student).
For those of you that are like me and out of college now, networking events are even more valuable as they help you start to build out your professional network and establish yourself as an industry expert among your peers. See what events your company sponsors or frequently sends employees to.
If they don’t offer very many, be proactive and check out what events your local Chamber of Commerce is doing (most of them have young professional branches if you’re more comfortable practicing in front of people your age). You can also sign up for alerts for meetup groups in your area, using resources like Eventbrite and Meetup.com.
Learning to love networking and making it a regular habit to seek out and attend networking events will work wonders for your career.
What networking events are you particularly fond of? Are there any that your school offers that you find really interesting and helpful? Be sure to comment below, I’d love to hear your perspective!