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Networking Angst

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SCHMOOZING!

It’s not necessarily fun – even for the host or facilitator tries to make it so. It can be a very stressful event especially for those who have never had to relate on this level in their career (so far). Walking into that room, making eye contact with strangers, shaking hands (not always pleasant), wondering who should speak first – are just a few of those anxious points of reference when thinking about networking.

People network in business settings — chamber of commerce events, industry trade shows and conferences, training sessions, even speed dating is a kind of networking. Many business-supportive organizations host speed networking sessions in order to put some fun into a presumably unsettling experience.

It doesn’t have to be so anxiety ridden. We talk about being prepared for interviews a lot. Well, we should be prepared for this type of mass-meeting-think-on-your-feet opportunity as well.

Here are just 5 suggestions for questions/topics to make your next career networking experience a bit more productive and comfortable one — and as it just might turn out, a more effective one!

  1. What advise would you give to someone who is interested in your field; or the company you work(ed) for?
  2. Which online sites have you had the most success with posting your resume?
  3. Are you considering any classes or certifications to increase your potential of getting that next job?
  4. and to someone out of work a year or more: How do you stay abreast of the newest trends or just the news in your field?
  5. Have you ever thought about working for yourself – and starting a business?
Note: Most of these questions, like interview questions, are designed to elicit conversation vs. a yes or no answer.
Note: None of these questions above suggest you might have something to offer the person!
This is an important but challenging part of the networking process. We go into these events thinking we have to find out immediately (WIFM). If we consider a different perspective – where we are not trying to sell ourselves. Instead we want to figure out how we could help others. Networking will not only become more comfortable, it will likely be more successful.
Here are just a few more questions/suggestions on how to broach this concept.
First, find a commonality but be careful not to complain or be too abrupt:
  1. challenges in the online job application process
  2. difficult interview questions
  3. technology obstacles or lack of familiarity
In these scenarios, the person on the other side of that handshake may like some help but may be too self-conscious to ask for it. Maybe you’ve found a way to deal or can even offer to help, over coffee later that day or on another.
Another thing about self-consciousness, we all should be to some degree. Our own grooming, choice of clothing, general presentation will make both sides of the schmooze more comfortable. In the event that the event provides food and alcohol – well, be cautious on that too. Maybe wait on getting that glass of wine until you want to continue a conversation with someone. The food will still be around, but the opportunity to talk and make good connections, may not be.
Pace yourself.
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