It’s likely that when you think of your ideal networking interaction, you picture a scenario at an event where:
>> Your nerves have disappeared whilst in conversation with a random stranger
>> The discussion is about you, your skills and how totally-awesome you are
>> BAM you’re offered a job or a potential opportunity with a connection that this totally-legendary stranger knows.
The reality is – a networking scenario like this, is one in a million. The average conversation at an event will unlikely end in an on-the-spot opportunity.
Some #NoFilter truth? The leap from the very first conversation to a potential opportunity for you, is a slow burn, and it requires you to put in some frickin’ good effort.
So how do you make the average networking scenario a win-win?
1 // Don’t go in with expectations.
If you walk into a room already gunning for a job – sorry – but you’re not going to walk away from this event a winner. People can automatically sense whether you’re fully invested in a conversation with them … or if you’re just waiting to jump in with a ‘favour to ask’.
Try and forget that you’re walking into a ‘networking’ session, and instead, think of it as a conversation with someone new (which is exactly what it is).
2 // DO go in as an active participant.
This one is a no-brainer. It means being whole-heartedly open to meeting someone new, finding out more than just the ‘basics’ about them and being a genuine part of the networking experience, rather than just ‘there for the sake of it’.
Actively participating in a conversation looks like:
>> Consistent eye-contact
>> Asking questions relevant to the conversation or recent statement made by the other participant
>> Offering an equal amount of shared information
>> Being brave, by being yourself
Remember, if you don’t want to be there, it will 100% come out in your body language and interaction with potential contacts.
3 // Ask open-ended questions.
Don’t aim for the standard ‘What do you do?’ Instead, here are some alternatives to ask at the beginning of your conversation:
>> At your company, what are you responsible for?
>> What’s the best part of your job?
>> What were you doing before your current role?
>> What’s going well for you this year?
These questions give you easy opportunities to keep the conversation flowing!!
4 // How can you be of value?
This is an important point … because it will help you stand out in a crowd!! If you’re still studying, most contacts will understand that you probably won’t be able to provide them with your in-depth insights from a latest marketing campaign.
However, just because you’re a student, doesn’t mean you no value to bring to a conversation at all!!! For example:
>> What project are you working on in your student club or sports group at the moment? Have you faced any difficulties with it? Talk about them and any potential solutions you have come up with.
>> Do you have a side hustle that you’re running? Why did you choose to start a side hustle? What have you learned about running your own biz so far?
>> What’s the latest goal of yours that you’ve achieved? This can be personal or professional – the choice is yours!
>> What’s a take-away that you’ve learned at your current or last internship? Did you pick up a particular skill or learn something new about your industry along the way?
If you bring any of the above to a conversation, the word ‘student’ will be at the very back of your connection’s mind!!
5 // If the conversation is right, make a point of connecting digitally or setting a follow-up meeting.
This one is tricky – careful with your manoeuvre!! If you’re feeling up to it – and if your enthusiasm in the conversation is being matched – you can simply ask if they’d like to connect on LinkedIn!
If your time is being cut short and you’re in the middle of a meaty discussion, this might be an ideal time to ask if they would like to catch up again in person. Again, a LinkedIn connection would be best for communication purposes or you may also consider asking for a business card so you have their email address.
The choice is yours – but pay attention to the flow of conversation and if the connection is truly there! You want to be aiming for an interaction that feels genuine and not forced, as this will give you an indication of the business relationship to come!!