Surviving Your First Big Networking Event

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You just got your degree in marketing and you did a few sales internships during those summers you didn’t spend in Maui or Europe. Now you’re ready for that first big sales job. All the advice columns, college instructors and college placement people urge you to network like mad to connect with people who can offer you a job. You’ve finally found the “must attend” networking event everyone’s talking about. The one filled with company reps, HR managers and recruiters. What to do? What to wear? Who to talk to and for how long? Some suggestions to help you shine:


Dress up. If you overdress a tad above de rigueur, chances are, you’ll feel more confident and speak with more authority. If the event was conducted last year, go online and check out the photos to see what people were wearing.


Do some early recon. Find out who will be there—names, titles, company, etc. If you’ve zeroed in on a particular company, arm yourself with info about what they sell. Find out if they’re actively looking for young sales people. Do the due diligence.


Survey the terrain. Find the host or coordinator of the event and introduce yourself. Let the host point out who’s who, then move toward the group that’s surrounding the key player (HR manager, recruiter, sales VP) who can do you the most good.


Don’t be a stranger. Walking up to a group of strangers and introducing yourself can be a challenge, especially if the people are already in animated conversation. Wait for a break and start talking. While networking events are social events, they’re not parties. Introductions by perfect strangers are expected. After you introduce yourself, let others respond to you. The key here is not to prattle on about your degree or accomplishments. Consider, too, the voice volume of those in the group. You don’t want to sound too meek or too loud.


Stay focused. Arnie Fertig, head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, advises networkers to focus intently on the person you’re talking to, rather than letting your eyes wander the room to see other potential targets. Don't text or check your phone for email when you should be interacting with others or listening to an event speaker.


Circulate. Your goal in these events is to connect with as many people who can help you as possible. So don’t hang with one group the whole evening. Spend no more than ten minutes per group. It’s okay to return to a group you really like, spend a few more minutes with them, them move on. A group that’s been together for an hour or more will welcome you back to re-fresh the conversation.


Carpe diem. Shelly Aristizabal, business coach and President of Business Women Connect urges networkers to make the most of new connections within 24 hours of attending the event. If you procrastinate, your new connection may forget who you are. Acting promptly will impress your new contacts that you took the time to reach out to them so soon after your introduction.


According to Harvard Business School, 65 to 85 percent of all jobs are filled because someone knows someone else, so networking can be crucial in launching your career.


Image courtesy of ambro/



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