Professional Networking: Working the Room Like A Rock Star
Kathy Keshemnberg, NCRW, CCMC
Wish you could “work the room” like a rock star? For many of us, professional networking, i.e., entering a room full of people you’ve never met is up there on the fear scale along with public speaking.
Of course, the mantra in job search is network, network, network … but what if walking into a room full of strangers is intimidating … something that – for you – ranks right up there with public speaking? Here are a few tips that might help you navigate the room a little easier.
Try a new approach … imagine that you are a reporter. Turn your energy from being shy or nervous into curiosity and ask questions … not like an interrogation, but “I’m interested in you” inquiries. What line of work is he in? How did he choose that profession? Are there any exciting projects on the horizon? What is the one thing she likes most about her company? If self-employed, what is the biggest challenge she is facing? You get the idea … and, have a lot of these sort of questions prepared and stored away in the back of your mind ready to use as you meet new people.
Once you have people talking about themselves, the conversation will naturally flow back to you. At that point have a clear, succinct 30-second commercial about who you are, what you have to offer, and they type of opportunity you are looking for. You don’t want to share your entire work history, complain that you’ve been out of work for 6 months … keep your message positive, upbeat, and focused on what you can do for your next employer.
If there is an attendee list available in advance, review it and identify several people you’d like to meet. When you finish a conversation with someone a great exit strategy is to announce you would like to meet Bob Brown. Perhaps the person you are speaking with can point Bob out, or you can excuse yourself and scan nametags. While looking for Bob, be sure to start conversations with other attendees, again in your “reporter” mode.
If there isn’t an attendee list, look for people who are with the companies you are targeting. Don’t lead with “is your company hiring?” Instead learn more … what does he like about working there? What is the culture like? How did she land her job? Are there any new projects on the horizon?
If you don’t identify an employee with your target companies, after your 30-second commercial, you could say “I’m very interested in either ABC or XYZ Company … do you know anyone who works for them?” or “Do you know anything about the company?” or “Are you aware of companies that are similar?”
Finally, have a networking card to hand off. Include your contact information on the front and a short statement that sums up in just a few words what you are seeking. On the back of the card include a succinct version of your 30-second commercial that expresses your value proposition.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary … treat it as an adventure, show genuine interest in other people and they will return that interest. Remember … most likely everyone else in that room feels the same as you; be a reporter, make others feel at ease, and you will be the rock star of the evening!
For more than two decades, Kathy Keshemberg, NCRW, CCMC and her team at A Career Advantage have been providing professionals with world-class resume consultation and writing, career coaching and personal branding services.