With the acceleration of social media and smart phones becoming outdated so quickly, there’s a danger that the networking advice you’ve been given is old news. Whether you’re attending your first public relations event or your 100th, here are 10 crucial tips for networking successfully in 2015.
The most important part of networking is often lost in a bundle of nerves. It gets awkward if you’ve had a lengthy conversation with a potential client and they’re faced with having to ask who you are because you forgot to introduce yourself. Whenever you approach someone, make eye contact and introduce yourself clearly stating your name and where you’re from. One easy thing to do to make a good impression and break the ice is give a compliment. Often overlooked, giving a compliment on a speech or a piece of work can show your interest while giving someone a chance to talk more.
Charge your phone
Everything you need for networking successfully is available on your phone, yet a rookie mistake is arriving at an event with a dead battery. Your phone flashing 20 percent is one of the most detrimental things that could happen 10 minutes into an event. Picture this — a representative from an exciting new company approaches you, gives you a Twitter handle to follow and rushes off into a sea of people. But with no battery in your phone you’re unable to tweet back and forget the name! Without being too dramatic, a dead phone could lose you a job. That being said …
Don’t be glued to your phone
Your phone should be used for networking only. Don’t stand in the corner checking your Facebook or text messages because no one’s speaking to you or you’re too shy to socialize. If someone were to approach you and ask what you were doing, you’d come across as very unprofessional, ultimately scaring off any potential clients. Let’s be honest, networking doesn’t work if you don’t speak to anyone.
Go on your own
You might be tempted to stick with people you know as the first networking nerves get the better of you. But what’s the point in that? You’re here to meet potential clients and make new contacts so make sure circulating the room is your top priority. If you scout round the room with a friend you might be tempted to take breaks. Also, it’s likely that you’ll both have different agendas, prospective employers don’t want to see you being shadowed by someone. Don’t be afraid to join in with a group who are already talking. Scan the room and identify a group that looks like it’s coming to a natural break. Your introduction could save them from a dying conversation and give them a chance to meet someone new.
Make your username easy to find
It’s essential to assert yourself on relevant social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram etc. Make your usernames easy to find; this means no double underscores or lengthy numbers for people to get confused with. Equally, make sure your names are consistent across all platforms. People often try a username in the search bar for different platforms to see if they can get lucky and find you.
… But not too easy to find.
Some suggest it may be best to hide your accounts that you don’t use for professional purposes. Potential employers don’t necessarily want to see what you did this past weekend. Danielle Buckland, a Graduate Recruitment Bureau specialist in public relations advises that “hiding social presence can also be useful as many companies now Google potential employees. I’ve had clients not offer interviews simply due to what they’ve [found in a Google search].”
Looking up information about the companies that will be attending the events can put you ahead of the game as well as take the edge off some of the first time networking nerves. Treat networking like an interview — you wouldn’t go to one unprepared, so why treat networking events any differently. Think of some really good questions that will impress the attendees and help conversation flow. Equally, remember to listen to their answers. This shows that you’re both interested in their company as a whole, but also interested in what they have to say.
Business cards are still a crucial factor to successful networking, but chances are yours needs a 2015 update. You may be a student and not have a company or business yet, so instead, include your email address along with links to your social media platforms. Having your links readily available means that companies can contact you instantly through LinkedIn rather than having to wait for you to reply to an email. As a student, spending money on business cards can be a lot to ask. However there are some websites that sell them for dirt cheap if you agree to advertise their company on the back of the card. Other websites, such as Vistaprint and Zazzle offer quality options for relatively inexpensive prices when you use a promotional code.
There are a few crucial elements to creating a suitable profile photo for social media. First, have photos that look like you so that people you’ve met remember who you are. Chances are they’ve been networking all day and have forgotten everything about you. A clear photo could jog their memory and get you a phone call. Secondly, make sure photos are professional. No one’s going to take you seriously if you’re dressed as superman (Well, I guess it depends where you’re applying!) Even if you’ve given a strong first impression at an event, it’s not likely that you’ll be given a further look if your photo is unprofessional. Dan Evans from Graduate Recruitment Bureau states that “when perspective employers look at you online, that’s your second chance of a first impression. It’s essential to maintain the professional impression that you first presented.”
Follow up with everyone that you meet
A big part of networking is getting people to remember who you are. In 2015, there’s no excuse not to reach out to companies instantly. Use your phone after the event to give them a nudge by tweeting a “Great to meet you today!” It’s important to do this as companies will have met hundreds of keen students in one day, so make sure you’re remembered. But remember, don’t harass them. If they’ve made it clear they don’t have any jobs open at the present time, thank them for their time and let it go.
Do you have any other crucial networking tips?
This guest post was contributed by Laura Derechova. Durechova is a second year American studies and history student at the University of Sussex and an online content journalist at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB).