Going into a networking event can be terrifying. Here are some simple tips to up your game in your future career-building endeavors.
1. Dress for success.
This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take advantage of this easy step. Wear clothes that make you feel confident but also best fit the professional standards. At a networking event, you’ll be meeting new people (which is, of course, the whole point), and how you conduct yourself in that setting can speak volumes. First impressions really are everything, but dressing professionally also helps you get started mentally on the right foot. Accessorizing with a tie or a pair of heels can encourage you to start conversations, be confident in yourself, and feel like you belong in that networking room. If you look the part, research shows you’ll feel the part too.
2. Set small goals for yourself.
Networking events are intimidating, which is why a lot of students don’t attend them. Whether it’s your first networking event or you’re a veteran, start by setting small goals for yourself. This could include starting just one conversation with someone, connecting with three people on LinkedIn, or even just getting dressed and walking through the room’s front door. If you reach a goal, you’ll feel more accomplished and ultimately get more out of the event.
3. Assume everyone has something to contribute.
Because networking events are nerve-wracking, students tend to only talk to professionals within their industry. While it makes sense to think people with similar interests to you may have the most to offer, you might be surprised how much you can connect with professionals outside of your desired field. As students, creating relationships with anyone you can is super important (can you tell I’m a public relations major?). You never know what your future holds because you could be reaching out to these “outside” professionals later on.
4. Talk less and listen more.
It’s just as important to get to know the professional as it is for them to get to know you. While you might feel pressured to talk about yourself to make you stand out, the point of networking events is to have conversations – not one-sided talks. Casual and personal conversations are the key to success while networking. We’re all humans. We all have interests, insecurities, quirks, desires, etc. A professor once told me to make yourself more interesting by being interested. Show that your #1 goal is to create a relationship, even if you’re looking for an internship and job.
5. Be bold.
This is the hardest thing to do but can be the most rewarding. Building up the courage to walk up to a stranger is terrifying; however, it can lead to a great connection. Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible, but also don’t be afraid to step back after being out of your zone for a long time. Realize what your limits are and when you’ve reached them. Then, look back and be proud of yourself and all of your networking efforts! Hopefully, it’ll encourage you to keep growing and continue putting yourself out there to meet new people and create connections.