This is a guest post by Jessica Sanders, avid small business writer and social media expert. If you’d like to be a guest writer here on Jobtrakr, we would love to have you. Just follow these guest writer guidelines.
Networking is important. You already know that. However, what is more important is being prepared for the event in a way that can benefit you in the end. The point of networking is to gain contacts or insight. When you are underprepared in any way, you are not able to present your best self, defeating the point of being there in the first place. Taking just a few moments to organize the details will make a world of difference.
Related: Why Networking Isn’t Working for You
What Kind of Event
The first step in your preparation is to assess what kind of networking event this is. While you may think this isn’t very important, it’s actually critical to you being ready for the evening. Different gatherings call for different attire, items and attitude.
- Job fair- If you are hoping to get a job, or job leads, you will of course need to have multiple resumes on hand.
- Social event- You should have plenty of business cards. If you have a good conversation that may lead to something down the line, you need to have a way for them to get into contact with you.
- Cocktail event- With a cocktail event, you can usually plan to dress formal but act casual.
What to Expect
While most of these events are similar to one another: mingling, cash bar, etc, you want to know exactly what to expect. Why does this matter? You don’t want to be drinking too heavily, starving or underdressed. All of these things can make for a bad first impression.
- Food- Call or check the website for food accommodations. If there will be light snacks, plan to eat a full dinner beforehand. You don’t want to be floating over to the snack table every 10 minutes.
- Drinking- If there is a bar, you should plan to drink according to what type of event it is. While a social 20-somethings event may be more drinking friendly, a professional setting will not encourage extensive imbibing. Regardless, be observant of how others in attendance are drinking and act in accordance with that.
- Dress- For a formal event, you should plan to dress office formal. Look presentable and covered; men should wear ties. A social scene may be more lax, although you should still plan to dress up. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
What You’ll Find
Most networking gatherings will have a website or Facebook page. Before heading out the door, it may be wise to look over the invitation and list of attendees. From here you can decipher a number of things.
- Guest speaker- If there is someone speaking, you should take some time to look that person up. Not only will this give you a conversation starter, but allow you to talk intelligently with that person if given the opportunity.
- Attendees- Knowing who will be in attendance before going can do two things for you. 1. You’ll see if you know anyone. Sometimes events like these can be nerve-wracking, and be acquainted someone is a good starting point. 2. This may also give you a point of reference for people you don’t know. Maybe you attended the same college, lived in the same town, etc.
What You’ll Talk About
Lastly, you may want to think about discussion topics before arriving, even if you just take a few moments on the drive over. Networking is a lot like a job interview; people are going to ask you questions and you don’t want to be stumbling over your words. Some things to think about:
- School- Where you went to school, classes you took, what you liked about it.
- Jobs- What relevant jobs have you held, how have they helped you, what you liked and what you didn’t.
- Extracurricular- Do you blog, do you frequent social networks, do you do work on the side, do you have different skill sets outside of your career path.
When walking into an event you want to have a clear idea of what will be happening that evening, where you stand as an employee and asset to the job world and what is expected of you. Being prepared for a networking event is crucial to getting the most out of it. Being underprepared can make you seem casual or less than serious, and you always want to present your best side at these events.
Jessica is an avid small business writer touching on topics from social media to telemarketing. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including background checks for b2b lead generation resource, Resource Nation.