Previously, we wrote about taking the first steps into networking and we received a lot of positive feedback making the second blog article on this theme even more challenging to write! If you have taken the baby steps, get ready, it’s time to run!
In the first article, we talked about five steps into networking. If you have read the first article and are now thinking about what you will do at your next event, read on.
Have a business card – We know what you are probably thinking… Why do I need a business card? Well, the person you meet at a conference or workshop needs to remember you. You may have an awesome smile or an impressive handshake but your new contact needs to remember your name. A business card not only provides your contact details but projects professionalism. We encourage final year undergraduate as well as postgraduate students to take business cards to networking events. Business cards are relatively easy to design and will not break the bank. There are now free templates available online. Keep the design simple and be sure to include all your professional contact details.
Set yourself a target of cultivating at least one new relationship at every event you attend.
Keep an open mind – The tendency to gravitate towards people who look, sound and act like you is natural. However, when you think about it, you have that in your everyday life already. The opportunity to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and disciplines is one that can enrich your experience in more ways than you can imagine. Regardless of what rung you are on your career ladder, there are people who are interested in engaging with you and would like to share their knowledge and expertise with you. Why not take the chance and move out of your comfort zone?
On a personal note, we have benefited from keeping an open mind and our individual and collective network comprises people we would have never crossed paths with. For example, we have international musicians (Like seriously), actors (oh yes!!), teachers, business owners, politicians and most importantly GREAT FRIENDS in our network. All of these relationships started with a ‘Hello, my name is…’ For postgraduate researchers, we advise attending networking events outside of your subject especially if you don’t want to stay in academia.
Stay focused – Previously, we mentioned the importance of being prepared before approaching potential contacts. The next thing to keep in mind is not to make a fool of yourself! Surprised? Well we’ll explain. Usually at events of a professional nature there are other competing activities such as FREE flowing wine or alcohol, canapés and without question, smart and gorgeous looking people ahem! ahem! Whilst all these things are part of the niceties of attending events, several people usually fall into this trap and get carried away. If you want to have a great, fun time at your event, great! But then it might be wise not to let people know who you are!
Knowing when to stop the waiter(s) pouring more and more wine into your glass might just be the personal attribute that will land you a job with a potential employer. Also, displaying chauvinistic, lecherous or any inappropriate behaviour is definitely not the type of impression you want to leave behind. To be honest, we have observed a lot of incidents before! The point to remember here is poor, loud and indiscreet behaviour is a sure recipe for NEGATIVE perception and often irreparable public image. Remember, we live in a world where poor or bad behaviour always gets greater publicity.
At professional events, what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas! Stay focused.
When it doesn’t go well – Sometimes in the process of making or engaging with a contact, you might get the cold shoulder or an unfavourable response. We have all been there. Sometimes when it happens it can be a little embarrassing but hey, nothing good comes easy right? It’s like the toss of a coin, you’ll either get heads or tails and unless you are a sorcerer you cannot predict the outcome. That goes for networking too. You cannot predict the outcome before you start speaking to a stranger at an event but you will surely learn from the experience. We have many personal experiences where we have been rebuffed, given the cold shoulder and all sorts (you can contact us for these stories if you want at a price….just kidding)! At the same time, we have had the best and some of the greatest people in our world, connect with us. So remember, whatever happens, don’t give up, and keep at it.
Follow up – A senior colleague suggests to always ask if you can contact the individuals you meet at these events at a later date when speaking to them. More than anything else always make a point to re-engage with your contacts after the events – which is the purpose of networking. You have already made the effort to speak to the individuals in the first instance, why not take the extra step to develop a productive relationship. Many of the people you might speak to at these events have been where you are now and understand what it takes to get to where you need to be. It does not have to be anything over-elaborate in your contact email. A simple “Hello, it was nice to meet you at…..” can go a long way in changing your career and your future.
As a matter of fact, this blog is a product of networking at a microbiology research conference in Manchester six years ago which shows what you can achieve when you take that bold step….So, hopefully you are ready to build your network and again you are welcome to connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter as we are always happy to engage with you.
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