Networking is an absolute must for a successful career. Unfortunately, many people consider networking events as nothing more than social time akin to a cocktail party. The truth is that networking events are more like a pre-interview on a mass scale. You are on display and you ensure that your goals, value, and expertise are communicated effectively. Networking is also great for making new connections, building current relationships and polishing up on your in-person speaking and communication skills.
One of the most basic mistakes is that people tend to dress down for these networking events. While you don’t necessarily have to dress for an interview, dressing well conveys respect for others as well as for yourself. Besides, every psychological study ever done shows that when people dress well they are apt to have more confidence. The old adage, dress for success, really does mean something. So put on your best business casual attire and and head to the gathering.
Another mistake people make is not having business cards ready to hand out. Sure, you can use a digital card on your phone and send it to them. But that only works if their phone has that capability and that they know how to use the application. While it may be old school, it is still easier to hand a business card over. Even better, ask which the employer/recruiter would prefer-digital or card in hand. This way they know that you are current with the latest technology, yet still understand the traditional niceties. The key is to have some type of business card available during the networking event to hand to prospects.
Be certain that you observe proper etiquette when at a networking event. The purpose of these events is to mingle and meet as many people as possible. To do this you need to be confident but not pompous. Make certain that you don’t monopolize any one company and be sure to be respectful of everyone you meet. You never know when or where your paths may cross again.
Finally, never stop making contacts in your field. You need these people not only to stay up on current trends, but you may one day need a reference, a new job or even a contact if your company is looking to expand into a new market. It never hurts to plan ahead and networking is an excellent way to make sure that you stay at the top of your game.