9 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event

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9 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event

You’re looking for a job, and you’ve heard “network, network, network!” more times than you can possibly count. So, you bit the bullet and signed up for a meet-and-mingle networking event in your field.

Now what?

As you’ve probably gathered, networking is much more than showing up, grabbing some free snacks, and passing out business cards. It’s about meeting people, sharing who you are and what you do, and gaining some valuable contacts and information that you can use in your job search or at work in the future.

And to make the most of it, all it takes is a little preparation and practice. Here’s what you need to know before you grab your purse and go.

Before You Go

1. Have a Goal

Before you get to the event, ask yourself, “why am I going?” Come up with two outcomes you hope to get out of the event—say, meeting three new people or getting one new job lead. (Or, if you’re going to reconnect with friends, that’s fine, too!) Knowing ahead of time what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused—not aimlessly wandering around.

2. Dress to Impress

When you’re planning your outfit, pick something professional—you won’t make an impression (at least, not a good one) if you look dishevelled, disorganized, or overly casual. But also pick something that makes you feel good—a great dress or those new shoes you’ve been wanting to wear will help you exude confidence in what can be an uncomfortable setting.

3. Bring Business Cards

This one seems basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen forget their cards or say “I just gave away my last one!” Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and keep a stack of them in a card case. This way, they won’t get dirty or crumpled in your purse, and you can grab them quickly—it’s much more professional to pull your card out of a case then go searching through your bag.

While You’re There

4. Make an Effective Introduction

When you meet someone new, introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving a firm but brief handshake. Then, listen for the other person’s name (believe me, it’s easy to miss when you’re nervous), then use it two times while you’re speaking. This will not only help you remember her name, but also appear sincere and interested in the conversation.

5. Listen First, then Speak

Here’s a networking secret: Let the other person speak first! Most people don’t realize this, but the person who talks about herself first is only being half listened to. If your counterpart is preoccupied with what she’s going to say when it’s her turn to speak, she’ll only be partially tuning in to what you’re saying. But by asking the other person questions first, she’ll will be much more relaxed and focused when the conversation turns to you.

6. Show Sincerity and Interest

Have a few good questions in your back pocket. Asking the other person about her background and work will show her that you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities. The best questions are ones that can’t be answered by just “yes” or “no,” such as:

How do you like working for your company?

What’s your primary role at your company?

What projects are you working on right now?

How did you get involved in your field?

7. Get to the Point

When it’s your turn to share what you do, state it in just 2-3 sentences. You can delve into greater detail later on, but people will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase. Similarly, avoid using industry jargon. The key to effectively networking is to build rapport, so if someone can’t understand what you’re talking about, a connection won’t happen.

8. Take Notes

You probably won’t remember the important details of every conversation, so it can be helpful to write them down. After mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who she is, what you talked about, and any follow-up you want to do. Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much, much easier.

After the Event

9. Follow Up

A few days after the event, send follow-up emails to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with. Make sure to personalize each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning something that you talked about. A tip: One of the quickest ways to stop a connection is to send someone a generic LinkedIn invite.

This is also the time to suggest any follow-up, for example, to ask your new contact to meet up for an informational interview.

Networking is one of the greatest tools you have in your job search, and by being prepared for the event, professional once you get there, and proactive with your follow-up, you can make sure you get the most out of it. Beyond that, just try to relax and have some fun!

Boost Your Resume the Right Way! How to Become Strategically Well-Rounded

Boost Your Resume the Right Way! How to Become Strategically Well-Rounded

So you eat healthy (most of the time), you go to the gym, you give 100% at work, you volunteer on the weekends, and you also make sure to enjoy yourself with friends. You, by all accounts, are considered well-rounded.

Kudos to you! Now, let’s apply that to your professional life. Even though you’re great at your current job duties, being well-rounded professionally—which means gaining experience beyond just one functional area—is an important element to your long-term success.

Why? Because being well-rounded means you can step outside of your current role and take on new things—and that’s how you get the exciting new assignments and projects, which often don’t actually “fit” into anyone’s job description. What’s more, as you climb the ladder and are up for management positions, you’ll need skills in a variety of different areas to help you succeed. If you’re currently a social media manager but eventually want to head up a marketing department, for example, you’ll need to pick up expertise in brand development, advertising, and finance, too.

That said, there’s a difference between collecting random skills and gaining new experiences that will make you strategically well-rounded. So, here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify the skills that will be most important for your future—so you can go out and build them.

What Gaps in Knowledge Do I Have?

First, pull out your resume and take inventory of yourself. What are some valuable qualities or skills you already possess—and what do you wish you had? You’ll often identify strategic skills just by paying attention to your gaps or areas of weakness and identifying ways to strengthen them.

If you know you struggle with delegation or want to hone your leadership traits, for example, perhaps you could take on an intern or mentor junior employees. Or, if your emails tend to be long-winded or you wish you were a better communicator, taking a writing class would be a great way to grow.

What Skills Do Those Around Me Have?

Next, look around, and start noticing what other “well-rounded” colleagues or clients are doing. Particularly consider people in the positions you want to move into or attain: What do they do well, what could they do better, and what skill sets do their positions require? If everyone in the level above you has to manage budgets, for example, look for ways to plan budgets on smaller projects or events. If most people in the roles you’re checking out at PR companies have experience in public speaking, that’s a great place to focus your time and energy.

What Gaps in Knowledge Does My Team Have?

On the flip side, pay attention to the knowledge gaps on your team. If there’s knowledge or experience that no one else really has—but that could help you all on an upcoming project—that could be a great place for you to take on new skills and really shine.

For instance, if no one in the department ever wants to make client presentations, getting some public speaking training would be a huge boost for the team. If no one on your email marketing team knows how to code, why not take on the challenge?

What Characteristics Does My Boss Value Most?

Finally, think, watch, and listen to your boss. Consider the characteristics she possesses, as well as the ones that she doesn’t, and fill in the gaps. If you can handle tasks that would otherwise be challenging for her (say, you know she loathes Excel), that’s an easy way to make life easier for her and at the same time take on more responsibility.

Also listen to the comments and compliments she gives. What traits does your boss admire in others? What praise has she given lately and to whom? Through this type of feedback, you can glean the qualities that she values—and get to work on those skills.

Being well-rounded doesn’t mean you have to be great at everything, or even involved in every aspect of your company’s work. But if you strategically expand your expertise based on your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your team, you’ll add a huge amount of value to your organization—not to mention your resume.

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Laura Invited to Washington State to Speak

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Laura will be speaking at the National PTA annual conference in Washington State in April 2014. The keynote will focus on the topic of Communication and how this skill has a direct impact on leadership capabilities.

KATEN invited to speak in China

Laura has been invited to speak about business etiquette in China this upcoming March.

More details to come…

Exchanging Business Cards

When is the right time to give someone your information? How can you exchange business cards without appearing too pushy? This video will offer ideas for how you can integrate your business card into the conversation or find a reason to exchange information in order to move the conversation forward.

6 High-Powered Women Share Their Secrets for Success

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6 High-Powered Women Share Their Secrets for Success

by Laura Katen

I probably don’t have to remind you of the statistics about women in high-level leadership positions in the U.S. (And if I do, let’s put it this way: They’re grim.) Most of the time, all you have to do is look around the C-suite of your company, and the picture will be all too clear.

But there are plenty of women who have made it to the top—and today, they’re sharing their secrets for success. To learn more about their journeys, their career paths, and the advice they’d share with others, I recently chatted with six of the most prominent leaders I know. If you’re aiming for the top, read on for their quick nuggets of wisdom on leadership.

 

Kathleen Tierney

Recruited out of college to work at Chubb Insurance, Kathleen Tierney learned very quickly that she could distinguish herself by volunteering for projects and initiating ideas. Her strategy paid off,

and after working in many different business units, today she sits at the helm as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. She is also the first woman to run a business unit at the organization.

 

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Leaders need people skills, organizational skills, and the ability to ask really good questions even when they don’t always have all the answers. Great leaders are able to see trends that others can’t, to see the big picture, to ask the pointed questions, to set the goal and get people to that common goal, and to celebrate successes or quickly rethink and retool.”

 

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

“There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or take a chance. Just take the moment—don’t let thoughts like ‘I don’t feel like I’m ready’ get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good.”

 

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

“If you make a mistake, own up, apologize, and move on—don’t ruminate. Appreciate feedback, and think, ‘What can I do with this?’ If you’re not making mistakes, you may not be doing something interesting.”

 

Official headshot 7 07 300x300 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessNita Lowey

After a career in local activism, grassroots politics, and state and local government, Nita Lowey has served as a U.S. Congresswoman since 1989. She is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and was the first woman of the Committee to lead either party.

 

Define a political leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Someone who’s effective in achieving priorities. An effective leader should also understand the unique ability elected officials have to influence policy that helps improve others’ everyday lives.”

 

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in politics?

“For women who are eager to enter into public service, I think they should keep in mind that women’s experiences as mothers, daughters, wives, and primary caretakers, as well as employees, businesswomen, and community leaders, often make us uniquely qualified to address through public service the issues facing our families.”

 

Ruth Mahoney

Ruth Mahoney was very comfortable in the fast-paced realm of banking. In fact, she never agreed with the notion that it was a “man’s world.” She’s risen through the ranks in her field, and today, she’s the President of KeyBank Hudson Valley / Metro NY District, where she oversees the operations of dozens of regional banks and hundreds of employees.

 

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Working alongside your team, and being a good decision-maker—someone who can be relied upon, who takes responsibility, and who works well with people.”

 

What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

“Decide what your career is, and be specific and be focused. Be a student of business—meaning, understand it from all angles. You need technical and business acumen to be successful in a role. Read to understand more about the position than just what your job requires. Also, it is really important to meet and exceed all of the expectations in your role. Make your aspirations known, ask for feedback, be open to feedback, and do something with that feedback. Work on getting the skills you need to achieve that position.”

 

Donna Frosco

The legal field is notorious for having few women at the top, but Donna Frosco is one of those successful few. As the first woman partner at her firm, Keane & Beane, P.C., Donna founded the intellectual property and technology practice area. She also serves as the President of the New York State Women’s Bar Association.

 

What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Competence is essential—master your subject matter. You should also have the ability to communicate clearly and adjust your communication for the individual or group you’re attempting to reach. And initiative. Voracious curiosity, learning quickly, and listening well—to what is being said and sometimes, more importantly, to what isn’t being said.”

 

What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

“Stand up for yourself without being overly aggressive, and surround yourself with good people. Cultivate relationships with people you respect and admire by finding a commonality—a support network is also key to success.”

 

Barbara Cerf

Having grown-up in a financially modest household, Barbara Cerf’s parents told her they could not afford to send her to college. But she was adamant about attending college and accomplishing anything else she set her mind to. Set her mind she did—and today, she is Corporate Vice President, Women’s Market at New York Life.

 

What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Great leaders are innovative. They look at things differently, and they teach us to look at things differently. They’re also energetic, they can see the whole picture, they have great foresight, and they understand people and business. They’re people with ethics, integrity, and honesty—and they’re decision-makers.”

 

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

“Just do it. Dream it and do it. Learn how and when to say no and delegate. Enjoy what you are doing, and make sure you are having fun. And don’t be afraid to bring new ideas forward, but be respectful of people.”

 

Stacy Musi

Stacy Musi, a black belt in karate, lives by one of her favorite sayings: “Seven times down, eight times up.” As Managing Director of Chadick Ellig Executive Search Firm, her commitment to this mantra of focus, tenacity, and persistence has been the secret to her success.

 

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“It’s important to be respected, and you can achieve that by being credible. Know what you’re talking about, work hard, set appropriate expectations, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”

 

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

“Choose your battles. You should be willing to go to the mat, but it shouldn’t be for everything. Choose what’s important, and ask yourself, ‘Will it help me or hurt me?’ Step back, think, and make a choice.”

Networking is More Than a Business Card Exchange

Imagine a room full of people. The quiet buzz of conversations fill the background as small groups, sporadically placed throughout the room, continuing forming.

Welcome. You have just walked into a networking event. For most individuals in business, regardless of industry, networking is a great opportunity to strengthen existing relationships, form new acquaintances, liaise introductions between professionals, and pass-on referrals to colleagues. It can be one of the most effective ways to increase awareness of who you are and what you do, meet potential clients, and develop new business opportunities.