By: Kate Clark
Networking is something near and dear to my heart. If I had not attended a recruiting networking event 3 years ago, I would have never met eHire. I can trace almost every job I have had back to my own networking efforts and apparently, so can many others. Research shows that 40% of those polled since 2008 found jobs through networking.
Three years later, I am the founder and organizer of the Atlanta Spring User Group, a co-organizer of the Atlanta Titanium Developers group, and the organizer of eHire Labs Geek Nights. In addition to my professional networking, I am also the marketing chair for Hands on Atlanta TeamWorks! I do not claim to be a networking expert but here are 5 tips, which in my experience, are guaranteed not to steer you wrong.
1) Always have Business Cards:
Even if you rarely give them out or if you are going somewhere that you are sure you will not need them; it is Murphys Law. The moment you do not have any, will be the exact moment that you will need them. Do not be caught wishing you had brought them.
2) Dress the Part:
If you are going to a professional networking group, dress nicely. If you are going to an IT developers networking event, dress more casually. You want to stand out because of your personality and your skills, not because you are the only person wearing a suit at the happy hour.
3) Be Engaged:
Networking groups are often hectic, loud and distracting. Do not be a victim of your environment. When you are talking with someone, make sure to give them at least a minute or two of your undivided attention. Give everyone a firm handshake, always look them in the eye and always offer your card even if you do not see any use for this individual. Think: if the roles were reversed, someone elses kindness and attention would mean a lot to you.
4) Do Not be a Wallflower:
When you go to an event, especially for the first time, it is easy to sit on the sidelines. It is even easier not to participate if you are there with people you already know. Networking events are social events, but they are supposed to be social events with people you do not know, or more specifically, do not know well enough. As we all learned in middle school, you cannot always wait for someone to ask you to dance.
5) Follow up:
In the week following the event, anyone you spent more than a minute or two talking to should be contacted. Whether through email or a personalized LinkedIn invite to connect, make it a point to contact them. It is a polite gesture that will solidify the good impression you make on that individual. Just like in dating, when a girl gives you her number, she will be a lot more excited to hear from you the next day than she will be when she hears from you 2 weeks later.
A Bonus Tip!
Do not to wait until the last minute. All too often professionals wait to network until they need a job. No one is unfamiliar with the advice: The best time to look for a job is while you still have one. Even if you are not looking for a new job, networking could lead to connections that could increase your sales or help you improve your professional skills. Networking is not simply a means to find your next job, it is about growth opportunities. So do not put it off; network now, create connections now, look for opportunities to grow your career now!