By Kim Brown, Assistant Director for Alumni Programs

A few networking tips to get you started networking on the right foot.
A few networking tips to get you started networking on the right foot.

We thought this would be a timely post as many of you prepare to head home for Thanksgiving Break. Believe it or not, family/friend gatherings are networking events even though they don’t have the official title! And while some of these tips are geared more toward the “official” events, we thought they’d help you get ready for all of the in-person networking that’s ahead of you during break…and beyond!

  1. Your name tag goes on your right side.
  2. Do your homework prior to attending an event. Google attendees or find them on LinkedIn to see their photos, learn a bit more about them.
  3. Being a wallflower won’t work. Think about what you have in common with people and strike up a conversation!
  4. Try not to approach two people in conversation. It’s best to approach groups of three or more. You’ll be less of an interruption and feel more welcomed.
  5. Say the other person’s name two or three times during the conversation. You won’t forget it, and it shows that you are actively engaging with him/her.
  6. Make eye contact, but don’t make it a stare-down contest.
  7. Keep business cards in an outside suit coat or purse pocket. They’ll be easy to access and you won’t be passing along a sweaty, crinkled card that came out of your pants pocket.
  8. Write yourself notes on the back of business cards you receive. When you leave the event, you won’t be asking yourself, “now who was that person again? What did he promise me?”
  9. No food and drink at the same time. Keep one hand free to shake hands!
  10. Speaking of food, be mindful of your selections. Spinach dip might be a bad choice.
  11. Observe people we might call “mingling mavens” and try to replicate what they do.
  12. Read newspapers, books, movie reviews. Have things to discuss that are not necessarily career-related.

    A few go-to conversation starters.
    A few go-to conversation starters.
  13. It’s OK to “prepare” small talk. What are your go-to topics?
  14. Try asking a question to start an interaction. Ask the question, then stop talking.
  15. Try making a statement to start an interaction. Make your statement, then stop talking. For example, “What a well-attended event this is!” Then let the other person speak. Sometimes, networking is all about simple, casual conversations that lead to more.
  16. There are differences between hand shakes, hand breaks and dead fish. Have a firm hand shake.
  17. Ask questions of the other person that show you are paying attention.
  18. Remember your “elevator pitch” and practice it. Your elevator pitch is the short description of yourself and what you do/what you hope to do. You might use it if you had only a few minutes in the elevator with the CEO of your dream company.
  19. How do you get away? It’s OK to use colleague/food/restroom as excuses.
  20. Say thank you when leaving a conversation. For particularly helpful conversations, consider following up afterward with a personalized LinkedIn connection request or a handwritten thank-you note.

We hope these tips offer a helpful start!