How to Network Like A Boss: 6 Essential Tips for Networking Success•
When it comes to networking today, the truth is that lot of it has moved online – just think of all of the social media platforms (ahem, Facebook, Linkedin) that have made connecting with people, companies and jobs that much easier.
However, when you look at ALL of the ways to find the right job, meeting contacts face-to-face is still incredibly valuable. The main reason for that – because face-to-face interaction helps you make a more personal connection. After all, one of the most surefire ways to know if a company will be great to work for is to talk to current, happy employees – whether that means getting their honest company reviews online or talking to them in person.
But just keep in mind that in order to impress anyone in person, and particularly in a networking setting, you’ll need a whole lot more than a bright smile and a firm handshake.
Here are a handful of things you won’t want to be without at your next job fair, conference, or other networking event where there is career-building potential:
Get background information on the companies you may run into
In many cases, you’ll be able to anticipate running into certain companies at your next event or gathering; whether because it’s being hosted by known companies in your field or area, or maybe you even saw the guest list. Either way, knowledge is power – research companies online before going to your networking event so that you’ll have bits of useful information that you can use to your networking benefit. Pro tip: use that background information to help you start conversations and build relationships with (very) important people.
Create a unique networking resume
If you’re serious about finding a job, you’ve undoubtedly already created a resume that you send out to potential employers. But when planning for a networking event, you may want to prepare a special resume that’s tailor-made for people on the move—something that will give potential employers a sense of your history and accomplishments with a single glance.
Networking resumes are almost never longer than a single page, and there tends to be an emphasis on summary and condensed versions of your qualifications. Include very brief blurbs detailing your achievements, work history, education and goals. A resume writing service can provide you with additional help optimizing your resume for brevity.
Have great business cards (yes, people still use them)
You should always have plenty of business cards at the ready, especially when visiting a conference or other event where networking is a priority. Ensure that your business card includes your job title or a description of what you do, as well as your phone number and email address. Include the URL of your LinkedIn profile or website if you have one—just be sure to use a shortened URL that recipients can easily remember.
It’s important to have a business card that’s pleasing to the eye. Don’t overload your recipient’s vision with lots of different colors and images; keep it simple and use plenty of whitespace. A professional business card designer can create a great-looking design for you or offer optimization tips for a design you’ve already created.
Bring along some references and endorsements
Create a reference list of people with whom you’ve worked closely (and who’ve agreed to be a reference for you, of course). Choose people who know you well and have positive things to say about your work; offer to be a reference for them as well. Make sure you keep your reference list up-to-date and only include people with whom you’re on good terms.
Your list should include the name, phone number and/or email of each of your references. Make sure it’s visually consistent with your other materials; use the same fonts as your resume.
A notebook for better follow-up
If all goes well, you’ll walk away from your networking event having had a variety of productive conversation—but that won’t do you much good if you don’t remember anything that was said. A simple notebook is perfect for jotting down important names, contact info, and other details that you plan to investigate later.
Not only will taking notes help you recall key points, it will demonstrate to employers that you take networking seriously and are genuinely interested in the things they’re saying.
Bonus: work samples
This one is very situational (especially for those seeking employment) but it may be relevant to people in certain industries. If you’re a graphic designer or illustrator, for instance, potential employers are likely to be more interested in seeing samples of your artwork than a list of clients you’ve worked for.
This isn’t necessarily something specific to creatives, either. You may wish to include project plans, presentations, press releases or other types of work samples, depending on your industry and work experience. If any of this is relevant to you, be sure to bring a portfolio containing all of your best work to networking events.
Before you walk into a networking environment, it’s important to be fully prepared. Having all of the necessary materials is a vital step, but you also have to prepare yourself mentally: have a strong game plan with specific objectives in mind.
Above all, remember to approach networking from a position of reciprocity—or, to put it in simpler terms, think about what you can do for your contacts, not just what they can do for you.
Linda Le Phan is the Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.