Rangam Consultants works to provide job seekers not only with temporary staffing options, but also with tips on how to go about increasing your connections and networking skills after the offer, or during periods of transition. Careers are not built in isolation and networking is critical to display your professional brand – you – to prospective employers, or those who may help you achieve your goals. Apart from creating contacts and references, you can also learn about various industry-related developments and get involved with your professional community. Here are some smart strategies to not only survive, but thrive at social networking – both real and virtual.
First impressions still matter: Dress right and don’t drink all night. Even though this is a socializing event, you still have to behave like a professional. It’s okay to enjoy the event with an adult beverage or two, but moderation is imperative to focus on the goal of networking. Nobody wants to talk business with a person whose attire doesn’t scream professional. If you want to stand out, don’t hesitate to try a quirky take on business casual, but keep it tasteful.
Diversify: Nobody notices a wallflower and this isn’t the time to stick to cliques. Try to network beyond your gender, ethnicity and colleagues. Not only does this enable you to gain fresh perspectives, but also helps expand your career horizons through insightful interactions with people from different professional backgrounds and career trajectories.
Introduce yourself: Have an elevator speech about yourself prepared and memorized. You can list the important milestones in your career and your motives for attending the event.
Ask the right questions: Awkward first conversations always make people socially anxious. A trick to initiate an interesting conversation is by breaking the ice with the other person. Treat them like an old friend that you’re meeting after a long time, and don’t be afraid to get personal. Maybe refrain from asking about the wedding band tan-line, though. Some questions that you can ask are:
1. How did you hear about this event? What do you want to gain from your time here?
2. What’s your background? How did you decide to work in that field?
3. What’s on your reading list? What are your go-to resources for solving professional problems?
4. Another icebreaker is discussing something that you observed about the person – like their phone, or the food and beverage they selected. This is a good way to start chatting with someone you don’t know and you can naturally springboard into more subjects as the conversation matures.
5. People usually attend these events to look for useful connections, so a good idea to spark their interest can be by stating, or asking about how you could be of assistance to them.
Don’t “work the room”: Stay focused on meeting a few targeted individuals and try to build solid relationships, rather than engaging in short, meaningless conversations (the ever-so-dreadful “small talks”) in an attempt to collect “all the cards”.
Maintain that relationship: In the age of LinkedIn and smartphones, there are so many ways to reach out to your contact, after exchanging business cards as the first step. For those in transition, it is always a good idea to carry a personal card with contact details and your top skill. You can also use a pocket-sized writing pad to take down notes about the contact, the conversation or anything interesting that came up during the interaction. This helps in personalizing the follow-up email that is imperative to if you want to develop an ongoing relationship. And that is the purpose of networking, right?
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