7 Essential Steps for Your Next Networking Event

Leave a great first impression the first time around

Networking is the life line of any career. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a college student trying to find their next internship, networking correctly can open a lot of doors for you.

Here are seven tips to use for your next networking opportunity.

1. Smile and like you mean it

Not the "Why do I have to be here?" grimace and not like your driver license picture smile. People notice if your smile is genuine and being genuine is a sign of trustworthy person. In turn, trustworthy people get hired.

2. A firm handshake goes a long way

Leave your limp noodle handshakes at home and your hand kissing for debutante season. It's important to have a firm handshake, but it's even more important as woman to be able deliver a solid handshake in a business environment. A 2001 University of Alabama study by psychologist William Chapin showed that "women with firm handshakes tend to be evaluated as positively as men are."

3. Be prepared with your business card

A proper business card has your name, a work email and work number. Your proper business cards need to fit your industry. If you're a creative, the more memorable the card is, the better. If you work in finance, healthcare or a more formal industry, stick to a classic design on heavy weight paper. Be sure to have a stack in a professional case. Business cards go like hot cakes and not having enough makes you look unprepared.

4. Talk to everyone

Competitors, connectors, your next boss and even the people not in your industry. No one is too good for your attention. The six degrees of separation is pretty accurate—everyone knows someone. Your job is finding the people who know the right people for you. Whether you like it or not, personal relationships tend to land you at the top of the list.

5. Be sure to know the most relevant news

The weather and non-political (unless you are at a political event) news are great icebreakers. Knowing what's happening in the world shows that are you're informed and can tap into relevant issues for work. Even better is knowing industry news. Your competitor's CEO just switched companies? Know when and her new responsibilities. Are you in advertising? What's trending in design? What's the next big thing? Who did the most-talked about commercial? Are you a writer? Who broke the latest news? Who won the latest writing award? What's trending on the runway? What aren't people talking about?

6. Ask appropriate personal questions

Beyond the who do you know, asking the right questions helps create common ground. Sincerely ask how their day is going, how long they've been working for their current company, what attracted them to their current job and what they're interested in outside of work. Talking about what you love excites people and leaves the impression you're an enjoyable person to have around. Don't ask if someone is married, what their religion is and for other personal information you don't share in work settings. Propriety isn't dead.

7. Follow up

Take all of those business cards you collected and start making LinkedIn connections. Find the cards of the people you had lengthy conversations with and send them a quick email thanking them for their time one to two days later.

Developing a relationship with people before your job hunt starts gets your foot in door before you're printing out resumes.

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