November 10, 2017
Where to Go
Professional networking events are a great place to start making offline connections and can be very valuable if you do them right. Ashley, a hiring expert from Cardinal Health, agrees that “professional networking events are important to attend, even if you aren't actively searching for a job. You never know when a professional connection or relationship may come in handy, whether it's for your job search or for something that may benefit you in your current position.” 1 A gathering of like-minded professionals is the perfect place to make valuable contacts and expand your network. So next time you hear about a professional networking event in your area, give it a shot!
Who to Talk To
Simply attending the networking event is not enough; you need to make an effort to meet new people and start conversations. Ashley continues, pointing out that “when attending networking events, it's important to meet with as many people as possible. Don't stick with the same one or two people the entire time.”2 You should try to meet as many people as possible, but if you find yourself having a great conversation with someone, there’s no need to rush it. As important as it is to meet a variety of people, the quality of the contacts you make is equally, if not more, important. Networking events can certainly be beneficial, but if you find that you’re always surrounded by the same people with the same level of experience as you, it may be time to reconsider if that’s the right meeting for you.
What to Say
Now that you’re attending the right networking events and speaking with the right people, you’ve got to determine what to say to them to create those valuable connections that will grow a strong network. Stephanie, a hiring expert from AT&T, sums it up in just a few sentences: “How do you make the most of [a networking event]? Make sure your elevator pitch is on point, get the contact info, and follow up.”3 By preparing your elevator pitch in advance, you can be sure you eloquently explain who you are, what you do, and what you want to accomplish in your career. It is also a good idea to take business cards with you to these events in order to exchange contact information with anyone you may meet. Be sure to follow up conversations with a request to connect on LinkedIn in order to continue any relationships you form at the event.
Without a doubt, online networking is important, but there is something to be said about meeting someone in person and having a conversation with them. Much stronger relationships can be formed offline, and you never know who you may meet at one of these professional events. By preparing a bit in advance and making a conscious effort to make the most of your time at each event, you can make some extremely beneficial connections.