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September 20, 2017
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By Guiseppe Getto, President

If you’re anything like me, you may be terrified of professional networking events. Even the thought of engaging socially with a friendly community like STC-Carolina might fill you with dread. Or maybe you’re one of those blessed people called extroverts who thrive on social interaction and can’t get enough of it.

STC-Carolina Membership Luau, 2007

Either way, here are some tips for making the most of your next professional networking event, whether that is with STC-Carolina or your workplace colleagues.

Tip #1: Don’t Try to Be the Life of the Party, Unless You Are

As an introvert, I’m scared of professional networking events because I never feel like I know what to do at them. Do I bring my business cards? Do I talk about what I do? Do I talk about my personal life?

Extroverts are often much more comfortable in a variety of social situations. Luckily for you, I’ve paid a lot of attention to my extrovert colleagues over the years. And what I’ve learned from them is that you don’t want to try to be the life of the party if you aren’t wired for it.

A goal like “I will land my next great job” is off the table because it’s not achievable during one networking event.

Don’t get me wrong: you don’t want to be a wallflower. Just don’t push yourself too hard if you’re an introvert like me and you don’t do well when all eyes are on you.

Tip #2: Set Some Goals

It may sound hokey after I just said to try to relax and go with the flow, but: it helps to have goals when you’re doing professional social networking. Think about what you’re trying to do, besides have fun. Are you looking for a job? Are you trying to find a mentor? Are you trying to find a mentee? Are you struggling with a project and need some advice? Are you just trying to build your network because you’re feeling a little isolated at work? Do you just like being around people (you extrovert, you)?

The answers to questions like these can take the form of goals. Set a simple goal for yourself for your next professional networking event. It can be something as simple as: “I will talk to 3 people I don’t know” or something as complex as “I will talk to people from Organization X, Organization Y, and Organization Z to ask about potential job opportunities.” Just don’t set yourself up for failure. Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s achievable. So, a goal like “I will land my next great job” is off the table because it’s not achievable during one networking event.
The best trick I’ve learned from extroverts is to ask other people questions.

Tip #3: Ask Other People About Themselves

The best trick I’ve learned from extroverts is to ask other people questions. We enjoy talking about ourselves. We’re passionate about our work, our hobbies, etc. One of the most powerful ways to find real connections at a professional networking event is to talk ask other people about what makes them tick. What do they like to do when they’re not at work? What kinds of projects do they like the best? What kinds of projects do they dread? What’s the story behind their interesting tie or blouse?

Simple questions like these are disarming and safe for any event, whether you’re a confident social networker or not. The more you get to know other people at a social networking event, the more you will be able to find points of connection. Perhaps you, too, hate a certain type of project. Or perhaps you’re really good at that type of project and have some tips. Perhaps you, too, have a funny story about a piece of clothing that your partner bought you.

Asking questions is the best way to show that you are genuinely interested in your fellow social networkers, that you’re not just there to score that next great opportunity.

Just Try To Have Fun, But With Some Goals in Mind

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do at a professional networking event is relax and have fun. Just be yourself. But also be your professional self: keep your goals in mind as you’re enjoying the event.

Want to network with your fellow technical communicators?

Sign up for your next event, a social to welcome our new members from the form STC-Charlotte chapter!

Guiseppe Getto can be reached at guiseppegettoatwork@gmail.com. Read more articles by Guiseppe Getto. End of article.

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