Job Networking 101, Part Deux: How To Work A Room

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Job Networking 101  Part Deux  How To Work a Room KateBeck 296x445 jpgNow that we’ve covered the networking basics, it’s time to talk about the art of the schmooze. Many people shudder at the thought of forced mingling, especially in a professional environment. But there are ways to work a room without feeling like R2-D2, and you may even come out with some contacts and job prospects.

Know Your Audience
Before you even attend a potential networking event – whether it’s a low-key happy hour or high-profile conference – find out who will be there. You already know the kinds of people you want to meet from Part 1. If any of them are among the attendees, chat them up first.

Travel Light
I know: You need the duffel for your gym clothes, the tote for your laptop and the purse for your wallet and keys. I get it. But don’t show up at a function looking like a bag lady. You don’t want random junk falling out of your bags as you fumble for your business card. Not classy. You want your hands to be free, which also means…

Easy on the Booze
Don’t be that girl. We all know that girl – the one falling all over herself and slurring her words? Don’t be her. Nobody wants to hire that girl. You may think you need a little liquid courage to grease the wheels, but go easy. Nurse a glass of wine or a cocktail if you want, but don’t go overboard. You’d be surprised how little it takes to make a social gaffe. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it ain’t pretty.

Find the Provisions
That said, if there is a bar or food buffet, make that your first stop. People tend to be really approachable around food, and mingling while you wait for your morning coffee or evening cocktail is an easy way to meet new contacts.

Move Down the Totem Pole
Once you start milling around, seek out the VIPs first – the people you’ve already identified as potential contacts, or movers and shakers you might want to know. Then press the flesh with other people who look interesting. Feel them out to see if they might be of any professional help. Make sure you shake hands and introduce yourself, whether you’re chatting to a CEO or an underling.

Be Selective
Don’t just start throwing around business cards like they’re Mardi Gras beads. Be targeted. Only give cards to people you want as contacts, and it’s less presumptuous if you ask for their cards first.

Keep the Texting to a Minimum
Nothing will turn off a potential employer more than constantly texting and talking on the phone in the middle of a conversation. Put your phone on vibrate. If a major family emergency arises, you can pick up, but otherwise don’t. It’s rude. You can call and text people when the event is over.

Know When to Get Out
Unless you really hit it off with someone, you don’t want to spend the entire event talking to one person. There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for when you should move the schmoozefest along, but if the conversation starts to feel like it’s gone on to long, it probably has. Exit gracefully with a handshake and a smile.

Remember, when you network in a crowd, you’re not looking to nail down a job right there. You’re looking for an introduction that may lead to a phone call or informational coffee – either of which could eventually lead to your dream job.

Dana Bate is a writer living in Washington, D.C. and working on her first novel. Until last September, she was an on-air reporter and producer for PBS. You can follow her on Twitter at @danabate