Networking can seem intimidating if you’re new to it, but it’s an important part of any woman’s career, at any stage of her career. A young professional might need help as she climbs the corporate ladder. The same goes for an entrepreneur trying to establish clients and resources. Anyone looking to change positions or careers can use a network of assistance.
Women and men can both benefit from networking, but they tend to have different networking styles. Once you’ve decided that attending a networking event is worth it (it is!) and you’ve added it to your calendar, it’s time to prepare.
Keep these helpful tips in mind in and around a networking event.
Determine what your objective is
What do you want to achieve from attending the event? e.g business opportunity, meet someone to follow up at a later stage, grow your network. Whatever the reason, ensure you have a clear objective.
Arrive early or on time
While it may seem counterintuitive to be the first one at a networking event, the room is likely calmer and less crowded early on. People won’t have divided into groups yet. This can make it easier to have the confidence to approach other attendees. You’ll be able to initiate conversations with a wide range of people and you’ll get a chance to talk to more attendees than if you had arrived “fashionably late.”
Women tend to listen more and speak less—don’t forget to be heard!
Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships, not just about helping others. Don’t forget to talk about yourself, your career, and your aspirations as much as you are listening to other people’s careers, aspirations, and needs. You may find people approaching you and wanting help from you even if they know little about you. This is a great way to start helpful working relationships for yourself and others!
Ask simple questions to initiate conversations, but don’t hijack the conversation
Rather than trying to sell yourself immediately, try getting to know people as people. Ask simple questions, and remember that everyone likes to talk about themselves. You’ll feel more confident when you get the other person smiling and responding to your questions.
Find common ground
Women at networking events tend to value relationships while men tend to value professional experience more, so consider who you’re talking to. Networking is all about building relationships with people who can help you now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to politely introduce yourself to new people, Remember, waiting for someone to approach you is a waste of time.
Discuss your passions
Don’t be afraid to approach people, introduce yourself, and discuss your passions. Sometimes professional relationships are built on more than careers and professional experience; they can be built on personal experiences and interests as well.
Bonding over things that don’t necessarily revolve around work can help boost your confidence so that when it’s time to discuss work, you are comfortable with the person you’re talking to. This is often a great stepping stone for staying in touch after the event, especially if you connect online.
Connect on social networks like LinkedIn, and follow up
LinkedIn isn’t just for online connections. It can be a handy tool for staying in touch with your professional network which can give you the courage to ask for a favour when you need one.
Rather than just exchanging email addresses or cards, connect with your in-person network on the most prominent social network that is meant for professional networking. This is also a great way to follow up with people after a networking event, which is one of the best ways to truly grow a reliable professional network.
If LinkedIn is too broad or general for your preferences, consider helpful professional networks, like Behind Closed Doors. You’ll find that like-minded people are more committed and reliable.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to acquaintances
Women tend to have smaller networks, but they’re closer to the people in their networks than men tend to be. While it is important to maintain relationships even after the event, don’t be afraid to reach out. Men are more likely to help out an acquaintance when they see it as a reciprocal relationship. Conversely, women are more likely to ask for assistance from someone who they have helped in the past.
Networking doesn’t begin and end at a networking event
A great networker knows that while the best strategy includes connecting with the people attending an event, it also involves people you meet socially, the parents of your children’s friends, or even your fitness class teacher. Networking doesn’t require an event. Rather, it is a behaviour that needs to be practised all the time.
The more you practise, the more confident you’ll feel at making these types of direct and meaningful connections with other people. And all that practice will make a big difference whenever you’re attending a networking event!
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