‘It’s not what you know but who you know’ an age old adage that still rings true in 2016. Whether you want to climb the career ladder, develop your personal brand, change career or forge new business relationships networking is key. While you may have a love/hate relationship with face-to-face networking, it is necessary. These five tips will help you network like a pro.
1. Everyone feels the same
If the idea of networking takes you back to the teenage disco, just before the slow-set, à la Ireland circa 1990s STOP and look around. You are not alone. Notice the girl on her phone, the woman hanging out by the nibbles table, the lady furiously rooting in her bag and the others staring into space. This is the ‘look busy to hide feeling nervous’ game played at networking. Everyone networks to meet new people so be brave and muster up the courage to say “hi.” Even if you say hello just to put somebody else out of their misery – this is networking!
2. Know your story
Have two to three lines prepared about yourself. Whatever your career story is, be proud of it. All you need is a few (positive) lines about what you do, how you got started in your career and where you work. Focus on quality, not quantity. People want a short bio, not a full-scale in-depth career history. Think more like Twitter less like Shakespeare! Tell your story and move on by inviting your new connection to tell you about their career story.
3. Know how to start a conversation
Get busy the night before and do your homework. Check out the speaker’s background, have a general idea about the focus topic and read up on the latest industry trends. This helps you spark a conversation, join a group or ask a relevant question. It’s amazing how spending just a few minutes reading the night before you can really build your confidence to start and engage in conversations.
4. Know how to keep the conversation going
Now that you started the conversation keep it going. First, ask a question, then build on the answer by asking further questions! Keep things simple, ask: “Where do you work?” Wait for a reply and then, “That sounds really interesting, how did you get into that role?” Or use clever questions and statements about the event itself: “The guest speaker sounds really interesting, have you heard her speak before? I heard she is really good.” This type of ‘conversational currency’ keeps the conversation going without you having to say very much.
5. Know how to politely end the conversation
If a conversation is dying off or if you feel uncomfortable, warmly end it and move on. In any case, short conversations are both common and expected at networking. Simply excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. As you leave shake hands, say “It’s been really lovely to meet you and could I get your business card?” When you come back go to the nibbles table, get yourself a drink and move to a different location. Then it’s time to begin the process again with somebody new.
By Sinead Brady