If networking and you are like oil and water, the above refrain is probably a familiar one to you. And likely as not, you end up obsessing about it and therefore are unable to even enjoy the food!
Well: there’s another strategy that can work wonders for you. And that is, to simply pretend that you are a reporter whose mission it is to get as much information as you possibly can about as many people as possible. This requires next to no ‘schmoozing’ at all. Instead, your job is to simply think up questions to ask every single person you meet.
Of course, this WILL require that you take the initiative and introduce yourself to someone–ANYone–by saying . ‘Hello, I’m Billy Beezelbub and this is my first time attending this event. I was wondering how many people you know in this room? Then, all you have to do is sit back and LISTEN to what your partner says, (And, by the by: there will undoubtedly be some useful information coming your way, so have your note book ready.)
What you’re really after during these functions is information: information about the people you meet, their companies, their competitors, their products, their marketing strategies and especially their hiring needs. And the best part is, all YOU have to do is ask the questions. In fact, if you want, you can walk away from an evening with a pocketful of business cards, never having shared a single detail about yourself.
Why is this? Because other people LOVE to talk about THEMSELVES! Whether they’re discussing how they found their position, what their role in the company is or their plans for the future, it’s all about THEM and you’ve just given them permission to be on center stage. Now, you’re in the admirable position of just listening and asking clarifying questions.
However, after speaking with someone be sure to locate a quiet corner of the room to write down what you’ve learned. Don’t expect to come home with a basket full of job leads: it doesn’t work quite that way. However, you WILL come home with detailed knowledge about a variety of people and their professional experiences which will make you a much more efficient job seeker.
Note that during a network event, it’s generally bes to avoid the “J”: word (J-O-B) altogether because it is your goal is to learn about everyone else. By following this advice, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the people you’ll meet will remember you as being ‘that nice guy’ they talked to….because you were probably the ONLY person in the room who DIDN’T want to sell them something!
After your meeting is over, transcribe your handwritten notes on each conversation. The best way to do this is to put it into Excel where each field is searchable. And, don’t forget to send the obligatory thank you note: “Dear Bob: I write to thank you for the fascinating discussions we had about your company’s left-handed fishing rods. I learned a lot and enjoyed chatting with you. I will look forward to seeing you again.”
Now, wasn’t that a distinctly less painful way to get through a networking event?