Lessons Learned: 7 Dos and 7 Don’ts for Great Networking
As I approach my senior year at Florida State, I find it incredible how much I have learned — especially in the area of effective communication. My business classes sparked an interest in the need to communicate with other people well, whether it be at a networking event, an interview or a meaningful conversation. Outside the classroom, I have learned countless lessons from involvement in my sorority and networking events I attend on campus. This year, I stepped out of my comfort zone and started attending Seminole Futures, networking events with more than 100 businesses present. Although it was overwhelming at first, each time it gets less nerve-racking and more exciting.
Looking back on my experiences, I’ve come up with some dos and don’ts to help build your communications skills and make a great impression at your next networking event.
- Do make eye contact. When you look someone in the eye, it tells them you are giving them your full attention and what they have to say is more important than anything else going on in the room.
- Do smile. This is my personal favorite. Smiling makes you seem excited and interested. People are much more likely to approach you if you are smiling.
- Do research the company beforehand. Look at the company website and LinkedIn profiles and do a Google search to get a better idea about the company and its employees. This will help you ask educated questions.
- Do overdress slightly if you are in doubt about the dress code. It’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. You want to dress for the position you want, not the position you have.
- Do prepare your elevator speech. This can be 30 seconds on who you are, what you are currently doing and what you aspire to do in the future. It is a professional way to introduce yourself and an easy way to start a conversation.
- Do take notes. Networking doesn’t end when you leave the room. The next step is following up and contacting the people you connected with. After talking with each person, step aside and write down a few things you talked about so when you follow up with them, your correspondence sounds personal and meaningful.
- Do have positive body language such as nodding your head when the other person is talking and having good posture. This will show that you are engaged and interested.
- Don’t sway or fidget. This is extremely distracting.
- Don’t go to networking events with your friends. This is not only a major distraction, but it takes away from selling yourself and connecting with others one-on-one. You will constantly be competing with your friends and may not even get a chance to talk to the recruiter let alone leave a good impression.
- Don’t ask closed-ended questions. They will get you nowhere. Always ask open-ended questions; this is how your conversation will flow and take off.
- Don’t lie about your experience verbally or on your resume. This will start you off on the wrong foot, and if you ever end up doing business with that person or company, they will eventually find out.
- Don’t talk to your No. 1 prospect, CEO or company first. It’s best if you warm up with a few low-pressure conversations before you go for the big one.
- Don’t just list things you’re good at, tell a story demonstrating how you have shown those characteristics. For example, if you’re an exceptional leader with impeccable organizational skills, tell the story of the time you put together the company outreach program, delegating different projects to each employee and exceeding your fundraising goal.
- Don’t ask questions about their business that you can find on the internet. You want your questions to be well thought out and researched.