You probably have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In today’s interconnected society, it is hard not to believe this simple phrase. Most people attend networking events to gain something. Whether it is a job, a lead, a referral, or even an unpaid opportunity, networking events provide eager professionals with the community, exposure, and hope in making their professional dreams into a reality.
Over the past few years, I have seen two types of people. Those who walk away from these events disappointed and disheartened by the lack of job prospects and those who are ecstatic and inspired for the future. Now I know what you are thinking, it is not the event that led to this difference. Rather it was the mentality of the individual. For those who leave these events content and enthusiastic about their professional future, they come in simply with a goal in mind. That goal is what allows them to plan, act, and talk in a particular way. It gives them the inspiration to find new professional avenues and the determination in completing each and every task. This type of true network occurs because, at the end of the day, they are looking for something out of these people.
Now with networking, the goal cannot be to simply get a job. That simplistic goal is oftentimes seen as too broad for it to be beneficial to you. Instead, think of your goal for the day. How many people do you want to talk to? What type of people do you want to talk to? Which field are you interested in? By answering these overarching holistic questions, you will be able to centralize your professional goals to something that goes beyond the job. In fact, by doing this, you will be able to communicate in your purest professional form. Instead of worrying about whether or not you are going to get a job, you will be able to enjoy your conversations with other people and communicate your own passion that can oftentimes catch the eyes of your future employer. Remember, the key fact of networking is to gain a stronger insight on the company (organization or job).
So beyond planning for a goal, what else do I need to know for networking?
When it comes to networking, it is never too early to start, even before you need it. For networking, seasoned networkers are able to see the desperation from individuals from a mile away. Many times this is triggered by a person’s eagerness or panicked looked as they brim through their resume. Instead of seeking an employer, look to build a professional relationship with an individual, even if it doesn’t benefit you in the present time. This type of professional relationship can lead to new and exciting opportunities later on down the road and can help you develop your career through their particular guidance.
Now beyond building a professional relationship with these individuals, you also want to come in with an overall plan. While this maybe similar to the concept of ‘establishing your goals’ as stated above, having a plan requires you to do your homework. Your goals maybe something like attending business school or networking with one of the biggest consulting companies. But when creating a plan, this research requires you to learn more about the ins-and-outs of an organization. Before attending any networking event, get a clear idea on the background, strengths, and goals for each company and organization. In addition, create a list of questions that allows you to dig deeper about the company. This type of homework will allow you to map out your overall conversation with the individual before you even speak to them.
Once you have done your homework and established your own personal agenda, you are ready for the show! One tip to keep in mind is to never dismiss anyone as unimportant. At the end of the day, you are there for a reason. Same goes for those individuals representing their companies or organizations. Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Leverage what you know and drive out more information that can possibly interest or impact your future. Remember, you never know what impact a person may have later on down the line.