Networking: Ten Tips to Create New Relationships and Shine at Any Event
by Elizabeth Lengyel
Events are a great time to schmooze and network - just remember the difference! Schmoozing is all about mingling with people you know, like colleagues and friends. Networking is meeting new people to broaden your circle of contacts, which can come in handy when you're looking for a new job or changing careers.
I like to look at networking like this: It's about finding out what someone else needs, then seeing if you can help the person fill that need. This way, you never "use" your network. Instead, you build healthy relationships based on helping to meet each other's needs.
Does networking make you uncomfortable, because you're stretching outside your comfort zone and striking up conversations with strangers? Just keep in mind that it's all about building relationships. If you feel shy or are afraid you'll say or do the wrong thing, or worse, bore the person you're engaging in conversation, just follow my top tips.
1. Dress the part - Are you attending a formal event? Is it business casual? If you're a woman, you can never go wrong with a smart, white shirt and black slacks. Men, you'll look dashing in a sports jacket and tie. Add a sprinkle of individuality to your look. It can be a conversation starter by attracting someone to approach you.
2. Add a splash of color - If you're shy or uncomfortable, try wearing a dash of color to brighten your mood and exude confidence. Women, add a scarf or brooch. Men, choose a brightly colored tie.
3. Be a curious cat - Think about questions you can ask to get to know other people. Some ideas: What do you do? What business are you in? What's big in your plans for the new year? Stay away from topics on religion or politics unless you want to be known as someone who is bold and pretentious, or if you relish a good-natured debate.
4. Volunteer - Lend a helping hand. It can be a wonderful icebreaker to meet new folks.
5. Look for the little things - Watch for subtle types of communication. If someone smiles at you, smile back. If you bump into someone, start a conversation. Look for something you have in common to start a conversation on the right foot.
A party wouldn't be the same if there weren't some bloopers for which to watch out. Here are my top five suggestions:
1. Don't talk about yourself all night - Remember, conversations are never monologues. Make sure you give the other person plenty of opportunities to share comments, tell stories, and carry their 50% of the conversation.
2. Don't be an infomercial - Bring the best part of who you are to the party. Be genuine, be yourself. Never brag or use the networking event as an informal job interview.
3. Don't look removed - Crossed arms, a worried frown, or sitting in a corner are not magnets. It's best to keep your body language open. Try smiling and looking friendly. If you look approachable, chances are you'll meet new people.
4. Don't assume people want your card - If people want your business card, they'll ask for it.
5. Don't overdo it - Know when the conversation is nearing the end, and it's time to move on. Mingle and circulate. Don't talk with the same person all night. If you've really hit it off, schedule a time to get together and deepen your friendship.
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© Elizabeth M. Lengyel, PeopleCoach, Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Elizabeth M. Lengyel, President of PeopleCoach, Inc., delivers career breakthroughs. A trusted career coach, Elizabeth is passionate about helping ambitious professionals get juiced about their careers. The result? The right job in the career you love.
Elizabeth Lengyel may be contacted at http://www.peoplecoach.com or Elizabeth@PeopleCoach.com