How To Be Not Awkward Networking
Networking is definitely one of the more awkward things out there. It’s like trying to pick up a date (which can always be a little painful), but for your career, which increases the stakes by like, a zillion. We get it – nobody really wants to go up to a professional who probably has nine thousand other things to be doing and say, “hey, yeah, give me a job?” But networking is so, so, so important to landing that first job or internship; ask any of your working friends, and they’ll probably tell you that they got their jobs through a connection. Here’s how to get it done, with little to no awkwardness: Be confident in what you’re doing.
We know, confidence is way easier said than done, but part of what makes networking awkward is you thinking it’s awkward. If you’re confident going into a networking event and totally fake it ‘till you make it, people are going to want to flock to you.
Know your stuff.
A huge part of being confident is knowing your stuff. While we hope that you know your experience and your skills inside and out, there are still a few things you need to rehearse before heading out to a networking event. Try and come up with a few key industry questions to engage conversation with the professionals you’re meeting, and brush up on current industry trends. Did a media company just purchase a major magazine? Was there a major political debate that everyone in the public policy sector is chatting about? Make sure your industry knowledge is up to snuff so there is plenty to talk about to showcase your expertise.
Also be ready to spout off a few non-industry related interests you have. Those outside interests are what set you apart – every woman in tech loved her time in comp sci club, but do they also all have a passion for skiing? Probably not. Sharing that tidbit will definitely set you apart.
Pay careful attention to the people you meet.
A really important part of getting to know anyone is making them feel valuable. As busy as they seem, these professionals want to connect with you, or else they wouldn’t be putting themselves out there. We know you feel good after you help someone out, and these folks feel the exact same way. But you’re going to have to do some of the leg work.
Make sure you really pay attention to the person you’re chatting with. Things like remembering their names and the company they work for are non-negotiable. After they tell you that info, just be sure to repeat their name back to them by saying something like, “it’s nice to meet you, Sharon,” and then weave in the name of their company into conversation as seamlessly as possible (something like, “so how long have you been working with Spire & Co?”) These strategies will help you commit that information to memory. And don’t forget to snag a business card!
Seal the deal.
After you have people’s business cards, there are a few ways you can seal the deal – send them an email, connect with them via LinkedIn, or do both. If you’re not on LinkedIn yet, or you don’t feel comfortable with your listed experience, we suggest just sticking with an email. You want to feel confident in the foot that you’re putting forward.
Sending an email might be a bit intimidating, but we promise, it’s not as scary as you think. Just shoot them a quick email that reminds them of who you are and where they met you, and thank them for giving you insights into the industry. If possible, definitely add in something that you chatted about that stuck with you. Even if they don’t remember it, they’ll appreciate that you did.
If you do have a solid LinkedIn profile, there’s no harm in adding your new connection. This way you can stay up-to-date on what they’re doing, and they’ll get notifications from you, too.
Sealing the deal is so important because it opens the door for future communication. If you send this individual an email or connected with them on LinkedIn, you have a pathway for communication for when you might want to utilize that connection, and future contact won’t be so out of the blue or random.