Learn From My Mistakes: Networking Events

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA alumnus (Class of 2009)

The most effective to find a job, no, the only way to find a job in today’s economy is through someone you know within the company. Building your contacts through networking events is one way to get our foot in the door.

I have attended a number of networking events. There are a number of things I wish I had done differently to make these events more productive for myself. I am sharing my experiences so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

  • Start Early: This is the biggest mistake I made. I started attending networking events only AFTER I was looking for a job. By then, it is almost too late. The best time to start attending networking events is NOW. There are a number of benefits to an early start. You will be able to build contacts way before you need a job. Since you won’t be desperate to land a job immediately, you will be more relaxed and confident.
  • Get Information: Gather as much information as possible about who is attending, the companies they represent, who is the featured speaker, etc. Research the event‘s topic. By doing so, you will always have something to talk about. At more than one occasion, I have had a deer-in-the-headlight look on my face when somebody spoke about the featured topic/speaker. That is not the best way of creating a positive impression about yourself.
  • Mark Your Target: Make a list of people you want to talk to at the event. The list can be short or long depending on how long the event is. Then, make a list of things you want to talk about with each person on your list. If it helps, write down the list of people and topics on a 3×5 and carry it with you to the event. You don’t have to stick to the topics on your list, but the list will help you to get the conversation started.
  • Arrive Early: If possible, arrive a little bit early to the event. You can become familiar with the room which will make your more comfortable. In addition, it will give more one-on-one with people on your list, if they arrive early as well.
  • Business Cards: Carry enough business cards so that you can give it to everyone you meet. Similarly, get business cards from everyone you meet. If possible, note down some interesting/relevant information about them on the back of the card. The business cards will help you to:
  • Follow Through: Reach out to people you met within next 24-48 hours. It can be as simple as an email saying “It was nice meeting you at…”.  Include some information that you think the other person might be interested in based on your conversations during the event. If you promised to get something done, follow through with actions within a reasonable period of time.
  • Others Interest: Networking is a two-way process. So, offer to help others who can benefit with what you bring to the table.
  • Have Fun: Last but not the least, have fun at the event. You can only do so if you are genuinely interested in meeting other people. So, show sincere interest in people and what their goals are in attending the event.

As always, your feedback/comments are welcome. If you can contribute something to make networking more productive, please leave your suggestions in the comments. Thank you.

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