One of the biggest buzzwords in the career world is “networking.” Despite its popularity, few people begin knowing how to really network effectively. There are two key factors you need to understand when you go to a networking event.
Age-old advice for making friends on the playground is relevant to the world of networking, too. Go into any networking event with the intention of being yourself and making connections that feel natural.
Being genuine will be refreshing to your fellow networking friends and just like how you would want to help a friend, this approach will end up helping you in the long run. If you are trying to be someone you aren’t, you might see success in the short term but it won’t be beneficial in the long term.
Don’t Come On Too Strong
Don’t go into a networking event with a huge agenda. One pitfall you want to avoid is spewing out your resume and skill set when you begin meeting people. If you are more interested in passing out your resume to everyone you meet instead of making genuine connections, you will only be remembered as the person who was too desperate and was too self-involved.
Remember, you want to make casual friends. This isn't a job fair and you should not go from person to person, immediately asking if they can keep you in mind if "any interesting jobs come across their desk". People don’t want to hear your about your employee of the month awards, your long tenure at your last company or why you were abruptly let go after years of loyalty. They want to make connections. As you continue to go to networking events, you want to be excited to see some of these people, and you’ll want them to be excited to catch up with you, too. At some point, you'll become better acquainted with some of these new networking connections and you (and they) will feel comfortable discussing how they may be able to help you.
As you begin to make friendly connections, look for ways that you can help them. Maybe you have a skill that can help them at their business, or an insight or a referral they may find useful. Be a resource for others and remember that every nice gesture or favor you do for others, besides making you a good person also strengthens your relationships in and outside of the networking community.
For every opportunity you seize to help others, there is a chance that those people will also want to help you as well. Networking often works as a give-and-take. If you see a job opening that works for a colleague, share it with them and even offer to serve as a reference. Those types of favors will pay off when you need them.
One more tip.
If you are a restaurant/hospitality professional and are interested in looking for new opportunities develop a relationship with a knowledgeable, reputable search firm. They are professional net-workers and they very well may have contacts that can help advance your career.