Preparing to network

In my past few posts I’ve been writing about networking, and today I want to take a step back and suggest that there are some things you need to do before you go to any type of networking event.

  • Analyze the event in terms of what you hope to accomplish. There are lots of reasons to network, and your approach is going to be different depending on your purpose. Are you hoping to talk with prospective employers? Do you want to learn about a particular business or industry? Are you looking for investors (or partners) for a business venture? Do you need to learn more about the specifics of a particular career? Or are you just hoping to meet more people and expand your network more generally (which is a totally legitimate reason for going to a networking event!)
  • Prepare an elevator speech relevant to your purpose. My book’s Tip 22. Create and practice your elevator speech can help you get started. You can also find lots of advice online about how to write an elevator speech. One of the best sources I’ve found comes from an article by Katherine Arline writing for Business News Daily. The key points are: keep it short (30 seconds or less), keep it clear, keep it casual, and find a way to capture your listeners attention. What you really want to do is open the door for your listener to ask questions about you and your goals or ideas.
  • Create a business card. This may seem counter-intuitive if you don’t yet have a job, but you want to be sure you leave each contact with a tangible way to remember you. Although it’s a good idea to take copies of your resume to a Career Fair, for other types of networking events, a business card is more appropriate. If you want to save time and money, there are online templates that you can use to create your own business card, and you can buy paper specifically for printing business cards at any office supply store. However, there are also lots of outlets that produce business cards at a very low cost. My book’s Tip 23. Produce a personal business card gives you suggestions for what to include if you’re still a student or a recent graduate.