Down to Business: Networking Tips

“Forget about meeting as many people as you can, and start focusing on building fewer, more meaningful relationships. Attract people you’d die to know by thinking about what you can give, before you think about what you can get. Most importantly, master the art of listening.” Devon Brooks, Co-Founder, Blo Blow Dry Bar

As students at the Alberta School of Business we are constantly meeting people. Some days we are introduced to one of our Business school peers and on other days we are sitting down beside the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Sure, you will be nervous and somewhat intimidated by another person’s experience and business success, but follow these tips and you will be just fine!

 5 Tips for Young Networkers

1. Do your research. We are living in a world where we can “Google” someone’s name and find out where they last used their debit card. Take the time to learn a little bit about the person you are going to meet. Look at their company’s website and learn a few facts… It will make your conversations much more interesting and might even impress the person you are meeting. If you don’t know who will be at the event, try following OMGFacts on Twitter for some interesting icebreakers… Did you know that there is a place in Austria that is a dry park in the Winter, and a 10m deep lake in the Summer? (it’s at the foot of the Hochshwab Mountains in the Austrian region of Styria, duh). Endless conversations can be generated with fast facts.

2. Put your best face forward. Toss on a crisp collared shirt or your best blouse and leave your grey on grey Champions sweat suit at home. I’d recommend bringing your business cards even if they have an incorrect phone number. Your name is what you want the business leaders to remember (you can always scratch the wrong number out with a single line and write a correct number on the back). In the morning slide on an extra bit of deodorant. There will always be your friend who sets you up for a “high-five” just in order to expose Lake Huron and Lake Eerie under your arms. Leave the resume at home, be yourself, and put out the vibe.

3. Ask open ended questions. I’ve spent my fair share of time looking around a room talking to someone I don’t know saying “yeeeeeeah”, “soooooo…”, and “okaaaaay”. There is nothing more awkward than a conversation that refuses to get going because of questions that can be answered with one-word responses. Try questions that require at least two word answers, such as:

“Colliers, what’s that like?”

“BCom alumni, what’s that like?”

“CA during tax season, what’s that like?”

Note: Avoid saying, “good, you?” after the Chairman of a multinational corporation has already said “good, thanks”.

4. The handshake. Learn it, love it, and live by it. (there will be a link to my old blog about handshakes)…

5. Be yourself. Networking for the first time is awkward like many of the other firsts in life. Introduce yourself and ask questions you are interested in the answers to (that are also appropriate in a professional situation). The business man or women whose net worth is in the tens of millions was once in your shoes; they may even be excited to meet you.

If I can offer you one piece of advice, it would be to treat your Business school peers like the Fortune 500 CEO you just met. One day, that Business school peer might be the CEO of that Fortune 500 Company where you are trying to get hired. You don’t want to be remembered as a sweat suit wearing, awkward conversationalist with a limp and sweaty handshake.

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