Navigating a Networking Event: 8 Tips That Will Make Even a Shy Person Comfortable

nervous-woman-at-networking-event

For some of us, walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating, especially if you’re one of the quiet types. With every step, the lump in your throat gets more constricting and your stomach feels like it could bottom out at any moment – much like climbing Mount Everest, I assume. While you can live happily-ever-after never having climbed Everest, networking is something you can’t really avoid if you want to make connections with the “Who’s Who” of the business world. Being able to network effectively is a great tool to have in your arsenal for career success.

Here are eight tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and network like a boss:

Research

If you’re attending a networking event, do a little investigating beforehand. Find out who the host is and search their name on Google or LinkedIn. They could be an old schoolmate or maybe they recently achieved a milestone. A quick search can help you find a way to break the ice with the host of the event.

Dress like a boss

Ensure you are dressed professionally. Iron everything!

Just do it

Take a deep breath before walking into the room. Keep your head up, shoulders back and stand up straight. Stepping into a room full of strangers gets easier each time.

Perfect you elevator pitch

No matter what you do or the purpose of the event, always come prepared with strong talking points. If you’re a job seeker networking with potential employers, ensure you’re able to convey how you would be an asset to the company. If you’re a business owner, who knows your business better than you?

Be prepared to talk about yourself or your business if the occasion calls for it. Keep your pitch short and to the point – no more than 30 seconds.

If you’re simply trying to make connections, go with casual talking points; something current or newsworthy like a new book or movie release will do. Try to steer clear from politics and religion.

And don’t forget to bring your business card if you have one!

Don’t go alone

Go with a colleague or friend. Having someone you know in the room can help calm your nerves.  However, don’t treat your buddy like a crutch – be sure to mingle on your own as well.

Ask for an introduction

If you know the host of the event, ask them to introduce you to some of their guests. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you know to introduce you around.

Focus on the person standing alone

You might be a nervous wreck, but you’re not the only one. There’s usually someone standing in the room by themselves, likely just as nervous about networking. Make eye contact with him or her. Smile and introduce yourself. Find something to compliment, such as their shoes, briefcase, watch, and so on (but keep it professional, of course!)

Practice

Use your colleagues as guinea pigs! Don’t shy away from work events and staff meetings. Practice your networking skills by talking to people from different departments. This will help you get comfortable speaking with people and will also help improve your conversation skills.

Practice makes perfect, so implement some of the tips above to help you navigate any networking event.

PS – Keep in mind that a lot of people like to talk in general, so you’ll often find that sometimes all it takes is a smile, friendly introduction, and quick icebreaker to steal someone’s attention – and ideally lead to the next stage in your career!

Jodi Darby is a Business Developer with The Career Foundation’s Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) Program, and has successfully navigated her way through dozens of nerve-racking networking events over the past few years. Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn

Social Media and Job Search

With the increasing dependence on technology, mobile devices, and social media platforms, job search is a whole new game! In 2015, more people will use social media, mobile devices, and social media on mobile devices to look for their next position. In an age when technology is a must, employers and employees alike are exploring and researching potential candidates. Social media accounts could be what employers use to decide between two equally qualified candidates; at the same time, social media accounts could be why you’re still not getting any calls for interview!

The most important thing is to make sure that your social media accounts are presentable. Is there anything on there that makes you cringe? Then it’s probably time to take that down!

Look through your statuses and comments. Is there anything that’s grumpy or inappropriate? Maybe it’s a harmless “inside joke”, but how would it appear to an employer’s eyes? Looking through statuses and comments is an easy way for potential employers to find out a little bit more about what you are like in everyday life; therefore it is advisable to make sure that all public posts are monitored and polished.

Clean up your photos. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What kind of story would an old, inappropriate photo tell the employer about you? If your friends are tagging you in incriminating photos, maybe it’s time to update your preferences so you won’t be tagged in an unwanted photo unknowingly.

What about the groups you’re in and the likes that you’ve added? Being part of a pro-active group could boost your eligibility in an employer’s eyes, but being part of a group that contradicts the position you’re applying for may hurt your chances of getting the job. Likewise, clean up the lists of things that you “like” or are “interested” in; for example, having alcohol as your all-time favorite thing in the world is probably not going to be favourable when you’re job searching.

And remember to check on everything that could link to you! Do you have an old Youtube account you forgot about? Or was there a blog that you started long ago so you could rant about your last job? You may have forgotten all about them, but the links you once posted are still there! Regardless of the age of the content, if it may raise eyebrows, then it is probably wise to close that chapter and remove that connection!

Or maybe you just don’t want employers looking at your social media at all! In that case, it’s time to up your settings and make everything as private as possible!

With that said, don’t be intimated by social media! In fact, if you use social media correctly, it could just be the perfect avenue for you to land that dream job! A perfect example of using social media to land a job is Nina Mufleh, whose application for AirBnB went viral after she posted it on Twitter: http://www.nina4airbnb.com/  Not to mention she promptly received an invitation for an interview!