If you are trying to advance in your career, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Often, people are offered jobs or promoted to new positions because they have a connection with someone at a desired organization. Networking can open doors that normally would not be available to people outside of the company. Professional associations host events throughout the year for people to meet others with similar interests and career goals. If you are interested in expanding your professional circle, here are some tips to help you engage with other people.
1. Do not “work the room.” People can sense when you’re hurried and trying to end a conversation. Short interactions like these will either be forgotten entirely or remembered negatively. Aim to meet less people but to make more meaningful connections through intentional, patient dialogue.
2. Meet someone new. Break out of the friend huddle! You may be surprised at the new relationships you develop.
3. Ask great questions. It’s best to walk away from a conversation having allowed the other person to speak more than you did. Not only will they feel great about the conversation, but you’ll have gotten to know a lot more about him/her, helping you plan and execute your follow-up more thoughtfully.
4. Be engaged. Stay focused, use eye-contact and avoid scanning the room for others to talk to. These cues make others feel valued and will allow you to develop better rapport and trust: the foundation on which you can later do business.
5. Don’t be afraid to join in. There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break in the chatter to introduce yourself. In most cases, the people who are already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them a chance to meet someone new. If you sense that you’ve entered into a serious discussion, it’s okay to politely excuse yourself.
6. Be your best professional self. Networking events are designed to help individuals meet, learn from and collaborate with others in their field on interest. Make the most of this opportunity by dressing professionally, acting courteously, and most importantly, being genuine.
7. Don’t expect to be perfect. You won’t do everything perfectly, and that’s okay! Make it your aim to get better at networking and learn from your mistakes instead of dwelling on them.
8. Consider their network. When meeting people, it’s important to remember that even if they can’t help you directly, someone in their network probably can. Information and contacts are a good goal of networking. Just be sure you follow through with any commitments.
9. Don’t overstay your welcome. When there is a natural pause in the conversation, it’s perfectly acceptable to thank others for the conversation, excuse yourself and join another group.
10. Making an introduction. Proper etiquette is to name the more important person first. “Professor Jake Smith, this is Sally Jones. Sally, this is Engineering Professor Jake Smith.”
Most importantly...enjoy the experience! Smiles are contagious so don’t be afraid to smile at new faces. They may be just as nervous as you and looking for someone to connect with at an event. You never know who you might meet.