After a few years of experience being a pageant diva, rocking heels and rhinestones, I’ve picked up on a few techniques and tricks on owning the room and how to network like a boss. Whether you are finding potential clients or schmoozing some top dog executives; you want to know how to make the perfect connection and avoid burning bridges. And for those of you looking for a job, understand that landing your dream position isn’t entirely reliant on your education or experience, but more about who you know.
1. Show Your Confidence
Alright, you might not have the smooth swagger of Jay Z and Beyoncé, but your peers don’t have to know that! Walk into your next networking event with bold, straightforward confidence and don’t be afraid to make the first move. Quick tip: come prepared with ice breaker questions to prevent leaving empty handed (see tip #3: “Ask the Right Questions” below). If I had a dollar for every time I saw a group of wall flowers at a mixer, I’d bet I wouldn’t be eating off the McDonalds dollar menu anymore! Get the nerves and awkwardness out of your head right away; everyone is there to meet new people so jump right in.
Call me conceited, but I can guarantee once heads are turning in your direction, your confidence will definitely boost. So whether it’s your sharp outfit, dazzling smile, or focused eye contact, always put your best self forward in order to exude confidence.
2. Bring the Right Tools
Let’s get creative and compare this scenario to walking into a strip club without any singles. Would you ever dream of doing that? Probably not! I would imagine it would be on the list of “10 fastest ways to be ignored or kicked out” and you definitely wouldn’t get what you came for.
Come to your next networking mixer completely prepared. This isn’t just about bringing a pen and paper, but the stuff that really matters, i.e. your business cards! From experience, I can tell you nothing is worse than coming empty handed to a networking mixer. Make sure you have your business cards ready and easily accessible.
However, even if you pass the test in bringing your handy-dandy trading cards, make sure you are passing them out to the right people, the people who are beneficial to your network or industry. To get back to the strip club metaphor, you don’t want to be that guy making it rain in the club all at once. Work the room and find the people who you can make relevant industry connections with.
3. Prevent Boredom: Ask the Right Questions
Besides the free food and drinks, you are obviously attending a networking event to further your career and connections. So make sure you are actually following through with this goal. While networking, it’s not only essential to ask engaging questions but also show genuine interest in the conversation. If you are completely overwhelmed with the situation, don’t be afraid to keep your questions simple.
Feel free to tweak them depending on your event, but here are a few starter questions:
- What do you do in your position?
- How did you break into this industry?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- What do you find challenging in your field of work?
Pro Tip: Don’t act like The worst Bachelor, Juan Pablo. Keep your conversations meaningful and professional.
4. Count Your Drinks (when applicable)
And lastly we are going to wrap this up with a tip I learned from my parents when I turned 21, “count your drinks.” No matter how hard that may be, it’s strongly recommended. Almost every networking mixer I have attended seemed to have enough free alcohol to supply a fraternity’s “end of the semester bender.” Don’t get me wrong, liquid courage is completely acceptable and appropriate at a networking event, especially in the search industry, just know your limits. Nothing is worse than slurring your words or spilling a drink in front of a potential boss. Sure you will have accomplished your ultimate goal of being memorable, but not for the right reasons.
Be sure to send your success or horror stories from networking events to my twitter, @AshleyDavisSEA. I’d love to hear the juicy experiences!