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5 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event

You’ve heard it all before: “Networking is essential for your job search.” But what does that really mean? What is the most effective way to do it?

Networking is about more than just showing up at an event and handing out business cards. It’s about building relationships with people who can help you in your career, and who you can help, in return. And to do that, you need to be prepared.

Throughout this article, we will provide you with a few tips that will help you make the most of your time at networking events.

Set a Goal Heading link

When attending a networking event, ask yourself, “What do I want to gain from attending this event?” The best way to think about this is to set several outcomes you would like to achieve. For example, meeting five employers, learning about current industry trends or companies’ practices, etc. Having a clear goal in mind allows you to be more intentional about your interactions and conversations. You will have less chance of getting sidetracked at the networking event.

“Be open to talking with anyone – even people who may not work in the industry or job you are pursuing. They could still have valuable advice and may also be able to connect you with someone who works in your field of interest.”  – Ginger Lacy, Associate Director, Business Career Center

Dress Professionally Heading link

Your appearance is the first thing that others notice about you. Wearing a professional style demonstrates your seriousness, self-discipline, and responsibility. In this way, you create a positive first impression, which in turn can positively affect your future interactions and opportunities for collaboration.

Create a Strong Introduction Heading link

Mastering the art of giving a strong introduction at networking events involves key elements that leave a lasting impression. Begin by establishing eye contact, sharing a warm smile, stating your full name, and engaging in a firm yet brief handshake. Your self-introduction (also known as a “pitch”) should be short and sharp, demonstrating your area of expertise and career interests. Remember to actively use the other person’s name throughout the conversation to demonstrate genuine interest.

Take advantage of the opportunity to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the Business Career Center, who can provide valuable feedback on both your pitch and resume.

Questions Are Important Heading link

Be prepared with a handful of engaging questions to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. Showing a real interest in the other person’s background and work indicates that you recognize the importance of their professional journey. Opt for open-ended questions that invite meaningful discussion rather than simple “yes” or “no” answers. For instance:

  • “What do you especially enjoy about your company? How would you describe the culture?”
  • Could you tell me more about your primary role within your organization?
  • I’m curious, what exciting projects are you currently involved in?
  • How did you find your way into your field of expertise?

Follow-Up Heading link

Following the event, taking the time to send a personalized LinkedIn invitation adds a valuable touch to your introduction. Craft a thoughtful message that references your meeting and expresses your interest in staying connected. It is important to remember that meaningful connections require consistent engagement and that LinkedIn invitations set the stage for future interactions and opportunities for professional growth.

“Remember to nurture your network – and keep it growing! Stay in touch with your contacts. You can update them on your plans, send them an article or post on a topic which would interest them, or send them your best wishes during the holidays. Keep your connections, and they’ll remember you for future opportunities”   – Ginger Lacy, Associate Director, Business Career Center.

Embrace these secrets and approach networking events with confidence, knowing that you have the tools to make valuable connections and open doors to exciting opportunities.