I almost didn’t write this post. Writing this post would mean that I would have to admit something to my fellow Professional Divas that I am a little bit ashamed to admit. I was so close to chickening out, and then I said to myself, “Self, you promised to be honest with your readers. Part of being honest is sharing your strengths and weaknesses. Stop being a wimp and just say it!” So…here I go!
Networking events scare the hell out of me…there I said it! Don’t judge me!
The truth is networking has always been a little bit stressful for me. I haven’t quite figured out why, but I recognize that I had to get over it…quickly! As some of you may know, I am an attorney by trade. In my profession, as well as with most professions, networking is both expected and necessary…but it hasn’t always come easy for me. I have a sneaking suspicion that my initial apprehension with networking has something to do with my days in retail. Whereas I needed the job as a sales associate at a major clothing store (and the discount), I always felt as if I was forcing the consumer to purchase something they really didn’t need in order to build more business for the store. I used to feel the same way about networking. I used to think that the point of networking was to force others to like me so that they would hire me and build more business for my company…I was dead wrong!
Once I recognized just how wrong I was, I changed my way of thinking. It was then I was able to realize how beneficial networking could be! I stopped thinking of myself as a saleswoman, and decided to just be myself. I realized that the objective of networking is to communicate and exchange ideas and information for future employment, business, or personal relationships. This may be over-simplifying the true definition of networking, but this one works for me! It has also helped me to conquer my fear of networking.
As I slowly became more comfortable being at and participating in various networking events, I often reflected on those things that worked for me, as well as those things that didn’t go so well. This post is the result of those reflections. Now that I have shared my secret, I will also share a few tips for successful and meaningful networking.
Be Yourself – By far the most important thing to do during any networking event. You are fabulous, and should share your fabulousness with others. Be confident in your presentation of yourself.
Work the Room – Try to speak with a wide variety of individuals. While you should greet and catch up with those you know, try to meet 5 to 8 new individuals.
Be an Active Listener – Don’t just look like or pretend you’re listening to someone; actually listen to the individual actively. Make eye contact and ask follow up questions. Show genuine interest in the speaker. Believe me, people can tell when you’re not engaged.
Always Bring Business Cards – I know it’s hard to believe that someone would not remember the wonderfulness that is you. In the event that their memory is shot, be sure to have your business card handy. And don’t stick it in your huge purse or briefcase where it is not easily accessible. There’s nothing worse that holding someone up to look for your business card. May I suggest a business card case…a stylish one of course!
Dress appropriately – Make sure you are aware of the type of event you are attending, and the accompanying dress code. You don’t want to be caught at a golf outing in a skirt suit. Ok, that example is a little extreme, but you get the point!
Follow Up and Through – Be sure to follow up with the connections you made during the event. Also be sure to follow through with any promises you may have made.
These are just a few tips…certainly not all-inclusive. In the spirit of sharing, here are a few articles on networking. Also, be sure to add a few tips in the Comment section below.
Have a great night!