Whether you are already engaging in networking activities or are newly embarking on getting out there, below are 8 tips to help you optimize your next networking experience.
Tip 1: Sign up for Events.
Don’t just sign up for networking events. Put your thoughts into action, take a leap of faith in yourself, and attend one!
Tip 2: Set Goals.
Know what you want to accomplish during the networking event. Keep goals realistic, specific, and measurable. An example of an achievable goal is to obtain contact information (2 business cards) from 2 guests and follow-up with them after the event.
Tip 3: Research the Guests.
Ask event coordinators for a list of attendees. Look up information on a few attendees that interest you. Professional platforms such as LinkedIn are perfect starting points to review background information on attendees. Preparation is key! Failing to plan equals planning to fail.
Tip 4: Formulate Questions.
Come up with a few general questions you can ask anyone and have some conversation starters ready. You may not realize it, but you share a lot in common with other guests e.g. the event you are attending, the location (venue and city), food and drink, just to name a few. Plus, be ready to have a few tailored questions based on your review of guests or your interests. Asking guests questions during a discussion will enrich your conversation and facilitate the follow-up process. Some suggestions can be found here.
Tip 5: Update Your Resume/CV/LinkedIn.
Make sure your resume, CV, and LinkedIn profile are up to date and ready to share immediately after networking, if appropriate. If you haven’t done so, convert your CV to a resume. A review and update of these critical documents is a great way to reflect on your accomplishments and build confidence for your interactions. But remember, networking events are not job interviews, although making a good impression is important.
Tip 6: Prepare an Elevator Speech.
Prepare brief descriptions of your research that vary in length. We suggest 30 second and 2 minute pitches. As you interact with guests, you can gauge who is interested in hearing each version. If guests want to learn more, they can ask questions or encourage a follow-up conversation.
Tip 7: Bring Business Cards.
If you don’t have business cards, ask your program administrator or primary mentor to print professional and institution-approved business cards with your contact information. This is a great way to stay connected if the exchange of business cards is prompted at the end of the conversation. To keep track of business cards you collect, it can be helpful to write the location and date on the back of their business card for your future reference. A useful memory jogger! Maybe add a fun fact that you learned during your conversation – it may be a good conversation starter for next time.
Tip 8: Follow-up Within 24 Hours.
Reach out to guests you connected with by email or send an invitation to connect through LinkedIn with a brief note. This is a great opportunity to ask to schedule an informational interview so you can ask more detailed questions about their role and journey. People love talking about what they do. It may also turn into a good opportunity for them to learn more about you and your goals.
There’s more to networking than just showing up. Follow these tips and you’ll be prepared and confident while growing your network.