Recently, I attended McGladrey’s casino night networking event. It had been a while since I had last participated in networking activities during my internship in Washington D.C. last summer. I decided that it would be a good idea to maybe outline some dos and don’ts for networking that I’ve learned over the years.
- Dress Accordingly: This one I can’t stress enough. It is always a good idea to ask the dress code before any event so you can look the part. When in doubt, I’ve learned that dressing slightly more formal is the best way to go. Sometimes people have a hard time identifying the look of business casual, and I can probably only make sound advice for the men out there, but typically for business casual it’s best to stick to a nice pair of slacks and a button down shirt. You can use your best judgment as to whether or not to add the tie, but I always do, even for business casual.
- Don’t Be Shy: I know from personal experience that networking can be very intimidating, especially for the introverts out there. To be honest, when I’m networking, my introverted side really starts to show, but I think by establishing questions and discussion topics before hand really helps to break the ice. Think of it this way: you should not go to a networking event without at least knowing some basic facts about the company or organization. Coming unprepared will leave you to the sidelines with little to talk about.
- Be as Prim and Proper as Possible: There are some who might disagree with me a bit, but from my experience in politics and networking, good social etiquette plays a huge role. Often times companies that host these events provide food or appetizers, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to the table and load up a plate as much as possible. It is more polite to mingle with guests and hosts until an announcement is made or the food is brought out. And, need I say it, if you get invited to a post-networking get together, such as grabbing drinks with the hosts, don’t over do it. Make sure to use your manners, always thank the hosts and express your gratitude for their time.
- Ask for Business Cards: This is one of the most important aspects of networking in my opinion. During my time in Washington, I accumulated countless business cards from people I met during my internship. If there is a moment where you have an intriguing conversation with another during a networking event, it is to your benefit to ask for a card and if they’d mind it if you followed up with them later on. This is the first step to really getting your foot in the door with people. Nowadays it’s really about who you know that gets you a job.
I hope this advice was fairly useful to many of you. Just remember to loosen up, come prepared, and ask questions. Maybe talk a little about your own goals and aspirations to spark some intrigue. In my opinion, the atmosphere of a networking event is less than an initial date with the company; it’s meeting the parents. In the end, if you come prepared and make a good first impression, you just might land a job.