Networking is Like Vegetables

February 26, 2018

Top 10 Networking Tips for Before, During, and After an Event

Written by: Renée LeVangie, Program Coordinator, Halifax Connector Program

Networking is like vegetables – we know they’re good for us but, we don’t always like the taste. I’m paraphrasing Dalhousie employee Veronica Ennett; her analogy says it all. Networking is an essential job search strategy; building a professional network increases your access to the hidden job market. If you are a soon-to-be or recent graduate looking to join the workforce, or if you are just looking to build your network, one way to do this is to attend networking events. However, the word networking may conjure a daunting image of a person walking into a room full of strangers, not knowing who to approach or what to say. Fortunately, it gets easier with practice. Here are 10 tips to use next time you’re heading to a networking event. 

 Photo taken by Mohammed Al Masalma, 2017 BEST Conference

Prepare in advance

Research the event. Learn who will be there and what topics will be discussed. Bring business cards, dress appropriately, and prepare your personal introduction. Brush up on current news to help with conversation starters. 

Set goals
If you’re new to networking, set goals for each event you attend. Whether it’s to talk to one new person, or stay for an hour, start small. Gradually give yourself more challenging goals the more events you attend.

3. Approach the person standing alone

The person standing alone is probably also wondering who they should talk to. Approach them with a smile, a firm handshake, and introduce yourself. This is always easier than approaching a group of people. 

4. Ask open-ended questions

The worst thing that can happen after introductions is awkward silence. Yes or no questions require yes or no responses, so be ready with open-ended questions. Keep it topical. Don’t open the conversation with “What do you do?” Perhaps you can ask how they heard about the event, or what part of it they’re most excited about. 

5. Be genuine

Networking is relationship building. It’s not selling. Your goal is to find common ground and let a natural conversation emerge. This connection can vary from where you grew up, to your favourite sports team or outdoor activity. Business talk can follow. 

6. Keep it positive

Maya Angelou said it best: “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” However high your frustration level from job searching may be, a networking event is not a venting opportunity. Energy is contagious, and people want to be surrounded by other positive people.

7. Listen

Celeste Headlee did a great Ted Talk called 10 ways to have a better conversation. She talks about the importance of listening and being present in the conversation. You can’t ask follow-up questions if you’re in your head. My favorite line from the talk is “Listen to understand, not to respond.”

8. Exit with intention

You’re at the event to network, so eventually you’ll need to wrap up the conversation and move on to another. Acknowledge this and don’t wait until you run out of things to talk about. If you made a genuine connection and would like to stay connected, ask to exchange contact information. Exchange business cards, shake hands, and tell them to enjoy the rest of the event. 

9. Follow-up

Use LinkedIn or email to connect. Every conversation doesn’t warrant a coffee meeting; a simple ‘nice to meet you’ note may be enough. 

10. Nurture your network

To build relationships, you need to stay in touch. Leverage LinkedIn and Twitter to engage with your network. Share valuable articles, and comment on or like others’ posts.  

If you’re an international student who is close to graduation and want to learn and practice skills for the Canadian workplace and other professional environments, come to the upcoming BEST Conference: Building Employment for Successful Transitions. This free annual event on March 3rd is hosted by NSCC, Dal, MSVU, Venor, and EduNova. Partnered with these tips, you will be set up for success.