As the end of the year draws to a close and you start thinking about resolutions and a fresh start, consider a few professional steps to boost your career.
At the top of your list should be your resolve to go to networking events and to make a lasting impression at each one.
You don’t have to be the life of the party and you don’t have to schmooze with each and every person there. Networking is a good way to meet others in your industry while also sharpening your professional communication skills.
If you’re a natural extrovert in social gatherings, networking events shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Introverts might have a harder time, but they can still be successful networkers.
No matter what your own networking personality is, there are a few things to remember that will help you work a room like a pro.
Practice Your Talking Points
You can, and should, practice your networking efforts. Invite some friends over and practice introducing yourself and making small talk that is meaningful. Practice with coworkers at lunch. Stand in front of a mirror and read off prepped cards. Practice until you are comfortable holding a conversation that has real impact with someone you just met.
Investigate the Event
Do a little legwork so you know what you want to accomplish. Do you want to meet a specific person? Do you want to find out about a new trend in nursing? Are you looking for information about certification? Decide what you want to find out and choose at least four people who can help you so you can introduce yourself.
Looking friendly doesn’t mean you have to plaster a smile on your face. But a natural smile helps when you are talking to others. Mingle. Chat with the person next to you. Do not stand against a wall or sit at a table silently. Be genuinely interested in what’s going on around you and people will catch onto that feeling.
Have a Prop
Some people feel especially uncomfortable if they don’t have something in their hands. If you relate to that, by all means grab a plate of food, a glass of water, or even just a small stack of business cards. Just don’t do more than one at the same time or it will get in the way of you being able to shake hands with people or hand out your business cards.
Because you are networking to connect, you will surely leave a networking event with some business cards or at the very least some names and contact information. Follow up with people who can help you, those to whom you can offer your help, or just people you formed a connection with.
Growing your professional network takes work and part of that is just getting out and meeting people at events. Each event brings something different to the table, so figure out how your professional experience and skills can shine in different situations.
And remember, you have just as much to offer as anyone else there, so don’t think of networking as something you do to get something. Figure out ways you can offer to help others, too, and you’ll be much more satisfied and likely to form strong professional relationships.
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