If you know me, you know that I love talking to strangers and meeting new people. As I walked out of the Business Career Fair Wednesday, I realized that that’s all networking is. Talking to strangers and seeing if you can help them and if they can help you. I spent a part of my afternoon talking to recruiters and students that I’ve never met before. It can really be nerve wrecking to some, but to others it comes naturally.
This blog will hopefully help those that are struggling to build their network and maneuver around networking events and career fairs.
After an afternoon talking to strangers, I finally saw someone I knew. I was taking pictures of my entire day to document it in a photoblog, and though this would fit right in. We began to talk about life as usual and what we both were doing at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). I was attending a career fair, and she was reserving a workout room. As we started walking out of the ARC, we ran into one of my colleagues in the M.S. Tech Management program, I-Ning! She’s an international student from Taipei Taiwan and calls herself an easy and outgoing person who loves meeting new people. As soon as she saw us, she introduced her self to Sydnee without question. Thy began engaging in conversation while I kept taking pictures (lol).
On a serious note, that was a very important networking skill. As you walk into the career fair, you seen representatives from top companies such as Apple, CDW, Deloitte and etc. Your job is to wait in line to talk to stranger, hoping you can leave out with at most, a business card.
Networking is a very powerful tool and can be the difference in where you are today, and where you want to be tomorrow. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, going up to a complete stranger and starting a conversation. In today’s society, we are shielded from going out and actually meeting people because of social networking. If in anything, social networking site LinkedIn would be the best site to network and engage with potential employers or business partners.
Traditionally, networking, job interviews and meetings are done in person and not social media. Here are the 10 commandments of working a networking mixer or career fair written by Dr. Ivan Misner. Hopefully this make things a little bit easier and comfortable for those struggling to build or even utilize their network.
The 10 Commandments of Networking
- Have the tools to network with you at all times. These include an informative name badge, business cards, brochures about your business, and a pocket-sized business card file containing cards of other professionals to whom you can refer new business.
- Set a goal for the number of people you’ll meet. Identify a reachable goal based on attendance and the type of group. If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet 15 to 20 people, and make sure you get all their cards. If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less. In either case, don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.
- Act like a host, not a guest. A host is expected to do things for others, while a guest sits back and relaxes. Volunteer to help greet people. If you see visitors sitting, introduce yourself and ask if they would like to meet others. Act as a conduit.
- Listen and ask questions. Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. After you’ve learned what another person does, tell them what you do. Be specific but brief. Don’t assume they know your business.
- Don’t try to close a deal. These events are not meant to be a vehicle to hit on businesspeople to buy your products or services. Networking is about developing relationships with other professionals. Meeting people at events should be the beginning of that process, not the end of it.
- Give referrals whenever possible. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). If I help you, you’ll help me and we’ll both do better as a result of it. In other words, if you don’t genuinely attempt to help the people you meet, then you are not networking effectively. If you can’t give someone a bona fide referral, try to offer some information that might be of interest to them (such as details about an upcoming event).
- Exchange business cards. Ask each person you meet for two cards-one to pass on to someone else and one to keep. This sets the stage for networking to happen.
- Manage your time efficiently. Spend 10 minutes or less with each person you meet, and don’t linger with friends or associates. If your goal is to meet a given number of people, be careful not to spend too much time with any one person. When you meet someone interesting with whom you’d like to speak further, set up an appointment for a later date.
- Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect. Record anything you think may be useful in remembering each person more clearly. This will come in handy when you follow up on each contact.
- Follow up! You can obey the previous nine commandments religiously, but if you don’t follow up effectively, you will have wasted your time. Drop a note or give a call to each person you’ve met. Be sure to fulfill any promises you’ve made.