The art of professional networking begins with one conversation, one distribution of your resume, one connection made on LinkedIn. Networking can be done anywhere, through any group of people, whether it is friends, family or peers that you share a particular interest or hobby with. Of course, the likelihood of making a useful career connection when you are job hunting is much higher when you are surrounded by professionals that could potentially hire you. Here is how to get started with effectively selling yourself at professional networking events:
1) Find an event where you are likely to find people looking to hire
Social media is an excellent resource for finding out about professional networking events, especially LinkedIn. But there are also websites geared specifically towards events and meetings of like-minded individuals. These include Meetup.com, Netparty.com (which is for young professionals), Eventbrite.com and When.com (an event search engine launched several years ago by AOL). Craigslist is also a good resource; there is an “events” link under the “Community” section. Events you are likely to find include chamber of commerce conferences, college alumni events, career fairs and social gatherings held at restaurants or cocktail lounges.
2) Do your research beforehand
Once you have decided which event you will be attending, take any measures possible to prepare so that you will make the best use of your time while you are at the event. If you are able to view a list of people attending, review it and gather any professional information you can on them. Focus on recruiters and professionals that work for companies or industries that peak your interest.
3) Develop your “elevator pitch”
An elevator pitch is the statement about yourself you will give to the people you meet at networking events. In approximately 30 seconds or less, you will sum up your skills and how they will benefit the employer. You want to have this statement prepared so that when the opportunity presents itself, you can tell someone who you are professionally, what type of job you are looking to perform, and how you will perform it effectively. Check out Forbes.com for more tips on creating an effective elevator pitch.
4) Have the proper materials
Be sure to have fresh copies of your resume with you to hand out to people, and if you really want to increase the likelihood that people will be contacting you, get some business cards if you don’t already have them. If you aren’t currently working, you may want to consider ordering some personal business cards, which should at the very least contain your contact information and some sort of branding statement geared towards your skills and the occupation you are seeking.
5) Have a couple interesting stories in mind
For the people you really connect with and end up conversing with longer at professional networking events, you want to have a few intriguing stories on hand about accomplishments you made and challenges you overcame in past jobs. This way, people can get a more in-depth glimpse of your abilities, and are more likely to remember you for the future.
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