Networking is just like dating, so if you hate dating (don’t we all?), it’s likely that you hate networking as well. The only real difference between the two is that networking usually involves a lot less pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a lot more communication via LinkedIn versus text messages.
I never immediately introduce myself as an intern or a student for one main reason: it devalues my credibility. Pretend like you’re experienced (without lying) and be confident.
Find your Networking Weapon
Your networking weapon is just like the cheesy pickup line that the sleazy guy uses in a bar, except it actually works. It can be awkward to introduce yourself to a complete stranger; I start by paying them a sincere compliment. It’s an easy way to break the ice and makes the business aspect of the conversation less intimidating.
Perfect Your Elevator Speech
Craft your personal ‘brand’ and perfect it. You may only have a few minutes to speak to the CEO, so don’t waste that time describing yourself in a circuitous manner. Your pitch should be concise, focused, and intriguing.
Don’t Wear Black
If you’re attending a networking event, avoid wearing black. You’ll struggle to be distinguishable. Instead, try something that is bold yet still conservative (like this dress). Not only will a unique look be a conversation starter, but it will also help make you memorable. Who doesn’t remember a girl in cheetah print?
Drink, but don’t get drunk
A glass of wine to calm your nerves is perfectly fine, but you’ll risk becoming sloppy and unprofessional with anything more than one or two drinks. An open bar is not an excuse to get drunk with top-shelf liquor.
Keep Your Resume On File
Always have an updated copy of your resume available. I have mine saved on my computer, Google Docs, and iPhone, making it accessible whenever I need it.
MAKE ExCel your BFF
Take that stack of business cards that are tossed in your purse and enter them into a spreadsheet. You never know when you’ll need to call in a favor from a professional in a different industry, so keep your contacts organized for future reference.
Send new contacts a quick email after an event to reintroduce yourself, but remember that the same rules of dating apply here. Don’t incessantly call their personal line, follow up within a few days, and begging for a job is tacky.
Connecting via LinkedIn is a great way to expand your network, just be conscious of others’ privacy on more personal social networks. As a general rule of thumb, do not request to follow a professional if their account is private. Stick to LinkedIn and Twitter, and avoid Facebook and Instagram (unless it’s a business account).
||image via Artemas Photography||