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Monday, October 27, 2014

Afraid of Networking? Tips to Make it Fun & Worthwhile

"In the arena of human life the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action" -Aristotle

 Afraid of Networking? Tips to Make it Fun and Worthwhile by Lisa Quast Forbes Contributors

I admit that I'm one of those people who always felt like running in the opposite direction whenever someone mentioned the word "networking." That was mainly because I wasn't sure where to network or how to even approach the concept of "networking" (as an action verb).

What I found when I finally took action, was that there were an almost unlimited number of places to network. For example:

  • Association meetings: Find and attend local business and professional meetings. You can also attend your city's chamber of commerce meetings and networking events.
  • Alumni events: Seek out networking events through your college or university's alumni association.
  • Networking groups: Join groups focused on encouraging networking, such as eWomenNetwork (if you're female) or Meetup, which helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in their local communities.
  • LinkedIn: You can join groups that are of interest and then look for local networking events.
  • Online research: Use websites such as Eventbrite, NetParty, or FindNetworkingEvents to seek lout networking events that match your interests.
  • Join a club/organization: Many organizations offer the chance to meet new people as well as learn new skills while you network, such as Toastmasters.
  • Other resources: Your local library and churches also often provide listings of networking events.
My next challenge was to figure out how to network.  My breakthrough came when I realized that I needed to have a clearly defined purpose or reason to network. For example, my purpose might be to network:
  • To find someone who worked at a company where I wanted to work.
  • To find career mentors.
  • To find people willing to tell me about their jobs and what it took to be successful, because they were in jobs that I wanted in the near future.
Finally, I realized that I couldn't just show up at an event; I had to actively circulate through the attendees and proactively strike up conversations. I'm an introvert so this wasn't always easy for me, but it helped me improve my communication skills and gave me opportunities to meet some amazing people. Here are afew of the other networking lessons I learned. Continue reading...

17 Tips to Survive Your Next Networking Event by Darrah Brustein, Forbes Contributor

You arrive alone. Your heart is beating a little faster than normal and suddenly all of your charisma and charm go out the window. You try to lock eyes with someone so that you can find a temporary home in what can feel like a sea of strangers. But everyone looks happily in conversation.

While this might sound like your experience at a middle school dance, it's also what many people feel when they enter a networking event. These are completely natural reactions, even for the biggest extroverts. The great news is that people go to these events to meet strangers, so you're in the same position as everyone else. Here are 17 helpful tips for navigating a networking event and making the most of your time there:
  1. Find the bar! Whether nor not you're drinking, it's always a great idea to position yourself at the edge of the bar. Many people run for the bar when they get to a networking event in order to get a short respite from an overwhelming entrance. If you  position yourself a few steps from the bar, you can easily strike up a conversation as people turn with drink in hand.
  2. Be yourself. Networking events are meant as jumping-off points for relationship building. If you can't be yourself, you'll be starting off these new relationships with a lie. Don't try to be the person you think others want to meet. Be genuine. The people you connect with when you are authentic are the ones you'll want to stay in touch with.
  3. Set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, understand what you are there to do. Is your goal to feel out a new organization and get to know the vibe? Is to meet five new people? Is it to meet one or two specific people? These are all reasonable expectations, and it takes a little pre-planning to set these goals.
  4. Don't spread yourself too thin. Start by spreading a large net to test out a handful of organizations and then commit yourself to a only a few as time goes on. You want to become a staple at these events. When you bounce around to too many events where no one knows you, you're doing yourself a disservice by having to build your brand from scratch in each environment. You'll also find that networking is a lot more fun when you become a regular. People will sing your praises to new attendees (this is always better than you doing it yourself) and you'll see lots of familiar faces.
  5. Take notes. When you ask for someone's card after having great conversation, take notes on their business card after they walk away or immediately after the event. This will help you to be more specific in your follow-up. Continue reading...

Are you prepared to rock your next networking event and build some meaningful relationships? Tell us which event did you participate in and how was the event? Were you able to use some of these tips? Looking forward to your insights and comments.

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