Here’s how you get a job: Walk into a room packed with black-suited professionals and kindly ask them, “Will you hire me?”
If only it was that simple.
It takes relatable conversation, business-card etiquette and a whole lot of guts to walk up to strangers at a networking event, not to mention hooking them into learning more about you and what you have to offer their business.
On a recent evening, I found myself stumbling into a sea of professionals at my first-ever networking event. After engaging in long conversations and answering the same questions over and over, it came time to part ways with new friends. I found myself digging into my purse, pulling out socks, half a burrito and receipts from the dry cleaner before I was able to locate one of my business cards.
In a crowd of people, you want to be memorable, and you want to do so for the right reasons — not as the girl with a purse full of lucky charms. Here are five tips to help make that happen:
Don’t act needy.
Be blunt without begging. It takes a little more work than simply walking up to a potential employer and saying, “I’m Jen, I’m a really good writer, so just hire me!” You need to make a connection with someone before he or she can, or will, help you. You don’t walk up to a stranger you’re interested in snagging a date with and say, “Hey, I’m Jen, let’s date!” (Or, at least that technique has never worked out well for me). Connect with someone you meet at an event first, then spill a little of your background, hint your interest and availability and proceed with a strong follow-up after the event.
Play hard to get.
Keep conversations short and concise. You’re there to present a teaser of who you are and you’re also there to try to meet as many people as you can. Keep each conversation to a minimum and politely excuse yourself by saying, “It was great meeting you and I’d love to stay in contact. Let’s connect later on.”
Easily access business cards.
Keep your business cards in the pocket of your jacket, or if you don’t have pockets, keep them easily accessible in your purse. The last thing you want when you’re about to exchange contact information is to be fumbling around in your purse for your cards; talk about ruining the game you’ve been spitting for the last five minutes.
As important as it is to be well-dressed, it’s equally as important to be well-spoken. Have your 30-second “about me” pitch polished and powerful.
Go with a wingman.
If you’re going to bring your “main man/woman” with you to a networking event, stick with him or her at first to work the room and become comfortable. Feed off each other for a couple initial encounters and then go your separate ways. You don’t want to waste time being the two girls propped up in the corner, sipping mai-tai’s and talking smack about fashion. If that’s the case, why even go?
A room full of strangers screams opportunity, one that we can’t get by applying for jobs over the Internet. If you have a strong grasp on who you are and what you’re looking for, networking (and events in general) could help you come one step closer to running into the arms of your dream career.
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