Networking is one of the most important skills you can develop to further your career. Learning to find common interests and build rapport with people you meet will create a foundation of trust and comfort that will pay off in the future. Think of networking as “business dating.” You are trying to build relationships and get to know people in order to decide whether or not you want to associate with them in the future.
Professional networking opportunities are everywhere. Cocktail parties, chamber of commerce events, civic clubs, and social/athletic clubs are all examples of opportunities to meet and get to know new people. Don’t think of a networking event as a chance to get a job or sell something – you may find just as much satisfaction in finding ways you can help the other people you meet.
Attending a Professional Reception or Networking Event
DO: Smile and hold your head up when you enter the room.
DO: Keep your hands out of your pockets.
DO: Thank the hosts for inviting you.
DO: Introduce yourself to people you don’t know.
DON’T: Head for the food and drinks before you’ve talked to anyone.
DON’T: Get drunk!
DON’T: Talk with food in your mouth.
Networking Starts with Introducing Yourself
DO: Introduce yourself immediately so you will not appear aloof or shy.
DO: Make eye contact and exhibit confident posture.
DO: Extend your hand for a handshake.
DO: Give your first and last name and tell something about yourself (such as where you work).
DON’T: Wear out your welcome. Work the room and meet other people.
DON’T: Assume someone remembers your name. Greet them and give your name.
DON’T: Look over someone’s shoulder toward someone else in the room. It’s rude.
Tips to Improve Your Small Talk
DO: Be well-informed about what’s going on in the world.
DO: Focus on the other person and less on yourself.
DO: Keep it positive.
DO: Think before you speak.
DO: Listen attentively and ask questions.
DON’T: Interrupt the other person – it’s rude!
DON’T: Talk about the following: Illnesses, religion, politics, controversial issues.
DON’T: Start or participate in mean gossip or tell off-color jokes.
Dressing neatly and appropriately projects credibility. People tend to pay more positive attention to sharp dressers than to those who dress inappropriately or shabbily, regardless of someone’s credentials. Wear clothes that make you feel confident and attractive. Don’t dress in a way that distracts from your worth as a person. If you are unsure about an outfit, ask someone you trust and respect for his or her opinion.
To always say goodbye and thank your host.
To write a thank-you note to the host…NOT a thank-you email!
Tips courtesy of Mark Wilson, a 2001 MBA graduate of the Walton College who serves on the Business Alumni Advisory Council and co-mentors the Future Alumni Awareness Network committee.