Networking Tips to Turn Social Gatherings into Networking Opportunities

Article by Jonnie Vance

Most know that networking is a part of business and an essential way to position yourself for future career opportunities. However, for some (if not most), networking can be awkward,  especially if attempting to network at a more casual event. Nobody wants to be the one person at the party constantly talking about work and trying to sell themselves. On the other hand, you never know who you might run into and/or what opportunities await.

Networking is all about forming genuine relationships, and social gatherings are the perfect place to make connections.  Networking at social gatherings can play in your favor. Generally, people at more casual social settings are more likely to be relaxed. The lessening of social tension will allow for the conversation to flow easier all while feeling more organic. Your goal here is to find interest in and create a connection with whom you are speaking. 

Using the networking tips below during your next interaction will allow you to effectively network just about anywhere without killing the vibe of the social gathering.

Positioning

The approach you take in initiating a conversation can drastically change the outcome of the conversation along with your first impression. it is easier to start and hold a conversation with someone who isn’t already engaged, therefore, try to find someone who is alone. It will be far less intimidating to approach one person than it would be to penetrate a group and single out one person. 

Another one of our networking tips is to stand near high traffic areas, such as food or drink stations.   With these stations being the most visited, it is here you are more likely to cross paths with those you would like to reach out to (and perhaps those you would not think). People are also more likely to engage in small talk within these high traffic areas, making for organic introductions. 

Listen More than Talk

Once the conversation begins, you find yourself thinking about what to say next. What to say to really impress this person and get them on your team. Stop! Listen. Pay attention to what the other person has to say. Reciting bullet points from your resume will confirm your position in the conversation, which is that you are truly there for yourself and you are uninterested in two-way communication. Let people share what they care about, and take a moment to feel their passion. Stay in the moment, ask questions, and take pauses to form real responses. 

While we’re on this piece, let work come up naturally. Work tends to be a hot topic within conversations, anyway. Be patient and enjoy the conversation. Once work and careers come up, then put that networking cap on! The first thing not to do is to halt the conversation and go into your 60-second pitch about you. Continue with the conversation and soak up as much experience and knowledge this person has to offer. And most importantly, ask questions. Ask about how they got into the field, what they like and dislike about it, and if there are any current trends they’re keeping an eye on.

Yes – “listen and ask questions” are common knowledge, but these interpersonal skills go a long way and are tried and true tips on how to network. These skills show genuine interest and willingness to learn – and work especially well for those attempting to break out into a new field.

Follow-Up

The conversation went well, and you’re probably wondering if you made a good impression and hoping you’ll talk to this person again. It can be quite difficult to get someone’s contact info without seeming too desperate, but if you’ve been following our networking tips so far, chances are you feel pretty comfortable with the person to ask for their contact info.  You can certainly exchange business cards, but to make the exchange a little more personal and business-friendly, ask to exchange phone numbers, social media info, or email. 

Take things slowly. Wait a few days in between the interaction – and do not blow up their phone. Simply, reach out with a quick text saying how nice it was to meet them and how you would love to take them out to lunch or to grab coffee sometime to continue the conversation. Build a relationship, and eventually, you will have a better window to begin sharing more about your career goals.

How to Network with Profiles

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