How to Land a Job at a Business Networking Event
You’ve purchased a new suit, business cards fresh off the press, and…sweaty palms? You’re not alone: networking events and conventions can be intimidating, especially if you’re hoping to land a new job through one. Crowds of best-dressed business gurus in one place can be overwhelming, but navigating those rough waters is easier than you might think. Here are a few pointers:
The Basics: Don’t skim over these just because you think you already know how to land a job. While they seem simple, they’re also incredibly important.
- Timeliness is next to Godliness. In these types of situations, regardless of the size of the gathering, plan to arrive early. No matter how nervous you are, or how large the event is, you could be missing out on important info if you arrive late. It’s also important not to arrive and go directly to people you may recognize. Sure, check-in and say hello, but remember this is for meeting new people.
- Mind your manners. Always have a firm handshake, and never interrupt someone else while they’re speaking. Be careful approaching larger groups of people conversing so you don’t interrupt. Smiling is an important but often overlooked part of engagement and appearance. Be on your best behavior, because you never know who’s the CEO or another entry-level like you.
- First impressions are everything. Beyond hygiene, style, and manners, you’ll need to put an extra oomph in your appearance to catch others’ eyes. Instead of wearing a cape or a flashing necktie, show your personality in subtle yet equally-enticing ways. Your resume, for instance, can say a lot about you simply through the way you put it together. Are there graphics that really show your skills, or is it interactive and online? Your business cards can do the same. Don’t have any yet? Take a note from Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, and write your own information on business cards you collect. Not only does it recycle, but it shows the people you’re meeting other people you’ve met previously.
What do I talk about? Instead of talking about how you want to land a job, there are better conversation topics that aim for the same goal. While you’re selling yourself, don’t provide a sales pitch. Be you!
- Listen first; after all, you have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. You can learn a lot about someone—their interests, concerns, passions—simply by listening to what they’ve got to say. This also helps you with conversations in the future: “I remember you saying you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you see their game last weekend?” Walk the fine line between speaking up too much and not saying enough: it’s a narrow one.
- Ask easy questions. Don’t wait to be addressed; join an on-going conversation simply by asking to. Don’t try to be impressive with a large vocabulary or lofty topics: start simple, by asking about the person you’re talking to. How is their day going? What are they interested in? Creating a connection is what networking is all about—and you won’t do that if you never speak up or only talk about work.
- Share your passions. Don’t be afraid to talk about your passions, either. Although it’s a business event, it’s easier to stand out if you were the guy talking about the game last weekend or the woman reminiscing about 80s fashion than if you only spoke about business-related topics. Don’t get too passionate that you butt heads with another attendee; if that occurs, politely redirect the conversation.
Remembering all the details is key. Even if you want to dismiss the engineering professional you met because it isn’t related to your field; don’t. You never know who he’s networked with that he can introduce you to, provided you remember who he is.
- Utilize those business cards, again. If you’re handed someone’s business card, feel free to write down a little blurb about them to help you remember. What you talked about, what they looked like, and where you met is a great place to start so it isn’t as awkward when you meet again in the future.
Landing a job at a networking event doesn’t have to be as hard as you’re making it out to be; following the pointers above is a great place to start. Approaching it as a professional is great, but it’s also important to be yourself—whether that means talking about the last episode of Walking Dead or what recipe you tried over the weekend.
Happy job hunting!