It should come as no surprise that networking is one of the most effective ways to snag a great job. In fact, Harvard Business School claims that “65 to 85 percent of jobs are found through networking.” With this knowledge in mind, it’s critical to know how to use your networking time effectively. We’ve come up with three tips to help you make a lasting impression and gain valuable contacts at networking events:
Before the event: Practice your introductions and ice-breakers
It is important to recognize your goals and objectives before entering a networking event. Take time to plan out your “30 second elevator speech” and write down 2-3 key questions to ask any potential contact to get the ball rolling. Good ice-breakers include questions like:
"What do you do?"
“What challenges do you currently face in this industry?”
"How did you decide to work in this field?”
"What advice would you give someone just starting in this business/profession?"
Often the most confident and motivated individuals in the room are those that have taken the time to prepare and research key contacts.
During the event: Master your “small talk”
Small talk can be difficult when you don’t give your conversation-partner something to work with. Make sure to add detail to each and every one of your responses. Rather than giving a quick yes or no response to a question, try to elaborate.
For example, if someone were to ask you about one of your hobbies, rather than answering: “I like to run”, try adding “I actually participated in a 5k marathon last month”.
To keep conversation flowing, make sure to listen carefully to what the other is saying. Maintain eye contact and tune in to pick up on common interests or familiar topics. It is also a good idea to plan ahead by researching recent, relevant news stories or looking up a bit of background on the companies involved in the networking event. The aim is to find some common ground that will hopefully lead to a valuable business connection. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest industry news.
Keep conversations light and try to maintain a good balance between work-related and non-work related topics to keep discussions interesting. Over-selling yourself can often lead to boring conversations and disinterested contacts.
After the Event: Follow up for a positive impression
Conversations and contacts tend to blend together after a networking event. To ensure that you make a lasting impression, try to follow up with each person you interact with at an event. Send a quick email or look them up on LinkedIn and express your gratitude for the conversation.
Avoid generic messages at all costs! If you are going to take the time to follow up, make sure it is personalized. Include detail about your favorite part of the conversation to show that your interaction made an impact.