This blog was written by Ashley Moncrieffe, our Campus Ambassador from the University of South Florida. Follow Ashley on twitter @AshFMoncrieffe
We’ve all heard the proverb; it’s not what you know but who you know. Meaning, sometimes to land that job, contact, contract, client, etc it is your connections and network that makes it happen, sometimes outshining your skills and abilities along the way. A great way to build and enhance your professional connections is to attend networking events.
Networking events are a great way to build social skills, meet a vast amount of people and of course the opportunity to make professional connections. I have to add emphasis to opportunity because many times you blindly attend and lose focus of the original goal.
As the Fall school year gets under way, remember these 6 tips before attending your next networking event.
1. What’s your purpose?
The purpose of going to networking events is to build professional contacts. Sometimes people go for different reasons, like just to meet people or gain social skills. Before attending know what your purpose is. Have a goal. Are you going to make new friends? Are you going to find job opportunities? Are you going to get new clients? Once you have your purpose, it’ll be easier for you to maneuver at the event.
2. Are you physically dressed for the part?
How many times have you gone to a party or event and you are underdressed or overdressed? Or how many times have you gone somewhere to only look like everyone else or the odd ball out? Before attending your next networking event, remember to dress the part. You don’t want to come to a professional setting displaying what your mom genetically passed down to you, but you don’t want to be too boring in your clothing either. Best way is to stick to the ‘usual’ business casual attire while showing your personality through color choices, accessories and hairstyles. For example if you feel you have on a simplistic outfit, skirt, pant and dress shirt how about playing with your color scheme or adding a statement necklace or watch.
3. Don’t be the sloppy drunk.
A networking event is not the club or the bar downtown. Know what your drinking limit is. You do not want to be that girl or guy who embarrasses themselves, the friends you are with or the company you represent. You really only have one chance to make a first impression, and you don’t want it to be because you can’t handle your own while drinking. Suggestion: limit your intake to a two drink maximum and consider drinking water between the two.
4. Who is Ms. Chatty Cathy?
Ms. Chatty Cathy is someone who talks too much. Though, you are at an event where you will meet tons of new people, it’s always best to have meaningful conversations and connections with a few rather than you talking to the masses about useless things. Are you ‘working’ the room to get your number game up or to actually make an important connection?
5. Use those business cards.
You went through the trouble of making business cards now is the time to use it. Have you ever gone to an event and someone gives you their card but you have nothing to give back in return? How awkward was that moment? You go on about what projects you’re working on or what your goals are upon post grad but at the end of that conversation there really is no evidence to back up that claim. Don’t be that person that accidently leaves their cards at home, in another purse or in your pants pocket. I’ve always said when you are really serious about your future career and actually gaining contacts having something to show for yourself will make you look like you actually have it together even if you don’t.
How many times have you gone to an event and received multiple cards and at the end of the night you don’t remember who was who? One of my sisters who work in Human Resources always told me, it is a great habit to write on the back of business cards you receive where you met the person or a bullet point about them because it keeps your mind refreshed.
6. Follow up immediately.
So you’ve successfully attended a networking event, whether you’re a newbie or veteran at networking, it’s great to always practice the act of following up. Remember that time you made a really great connection at the last networking event, but only to realize you ‘connected’ too late and you’re emailing that person trying to specifically recap three months ago? You’re trying so hard, that you recap everyone that person spoke to along with what they ate or drank. A little creepy if you ask me. That should not happen. Going back to the beginning when I said the purpose of these events is having the opportunity to make a connection. You have the opportunity to connect while the iron is still hot. Meaning, follow up with new connections the following day. Do not wait till the appointed time because chances are they may not remember who you are. When following up be sure to mention your name and where you met. An awesome way to do it is to search for that contact on LinkedIn. In doing so, make sure your LinkedIn, Twitter and any other social site you use professionally is always up to date. Tip: You have to have an online presence and a good one at the least! Google yourself and see what comes up in both images and text.
These are just a few tips to think about before attending your next networking event. Happy Networking!