1. Do you like who you see?
Who is attending the event? Look online at the list of attendees. If this information is not posted on the Internet, inquire with the event organizer. Do you see listed individuals who you have heard of or organizations that inspire you? Networking is the opportunity to meet people. If you do not see people that interest you, you may want to pass on a particular opportunity.
2. Is there down time or designated time to network?
Beware of events that center around meals or are jam-packed with sessions one after another. Networking is a one-on-one sport. You cannot network if you and everyone else are listening to a keynote speaker or panel. There must be down time or designated free time to have individual exchanges.
If the schedule does not include down time or time to network and you still want to attend the event, carve out time to network. Get to the event early, before the first session starts, to meet and greet others near the registration table or at breakfast. Stay after the last session to talk with individuals. Ask if the person has time for a drink later that day to continue the discussion.
3. Do you feel nervous or slightly uncomfortable?
If you feel comfortable attending networking events, this may be a sign that you are meeting with the same type of people you have been networking with in the past. To start expanding opportunities for yourself, consider networking events where you can meet individuals of different experience levels or backgrounds. It helps you to stand out, in a good way. You can make an impact just by placing yourself in a situation that you are not usually in. Being different makes it easy for people to remember you and you to add unique value.
For example, you are an attorney in a room full of management consultants and strategists. Your training to anticipate and counter an opponent’s argument is a skill that can help strategists stay a step ahead of the competition. Or, you are a young professional at an event focused on leadership development of more experienced professionals. If you are invited or are able to obtain a ticket, go to the event and take advantage of the opportunity to meet individuals with more authority and influence. Embrace being outside of your comfort zone to position yourself for new opportunities.
4. Are you ready to tell people what you want?
Do you know what you want out of your career? Do you know the next step you want to take? For networking events to be worth your time, you must be ready to articulate what you want out of your career.
Do not mistake this for asking for a job. This is your opportunity to share with people your goals, what you are looking to do next and the values you are looking for in an organization. If you don’t know what you want to do with your career, you can’t tell them. And if you cannot tell them what you want, they can’t help you. Sharing with others what you want is not a magic bullet to securing your next opportunity, but it helps to speed things up. When others know what you want, they will think of you when they come across opportunities.
The next time you are confronted with an opportunity to network, ask yourself these four questions. Not all networking events are helpful. You need to decide whether they are worth your while. Ask for the information you need to evaluate the playing field, embrace the opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and expand your opportunities.
How do you decide whether to attend a networking event?
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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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