— aka the art of selling yourself in a subtle and rapid way–
can be a very tricky, if not awkward, experience. Even though some of us may innately be better predisposed to this genre of interactions, I think it is safe for me to say that we all have at least once wondered and asked around for some key tips for how to approach a networking event.
But let me be very honest: I am certainly not a networking expert. But I have had my fair amount of experiences at networking events, which has allowed me to observe and understand what was efficient versus what was detrimental to the impression I was giving of myself.
I drew out 5 key takeaways that I highly believe to be game changers when it comes to having a productive networking interaction. These are the pillars to adopting the most relevant mindset:
Substance versus Style
You probably have (at least once) encountered the typical cliché of the too-comfortable-almost-socially-flirting-while-super-invasive persona. Well, this is exactly what you want to stay away from. What matters in networking is the substance you deliver–what you actually bring to the table. What input about yourself you are able to share with the other person you are trying to give an impression to. Because one thing is sure: it’s not at all about the way you present yourself but rather what personal facets you decide to highlight. It’s about what makes up the roots of the tree; not its branches.
Personal versus Usual
During networking events, everyone tries to impress everyone. All the speeches are the same –about backgrounds, life-goals, potential career track, ambition… but what sets YOU apart? Try to think about two or three facts that will make the person you are trying to impress remember you. Instead of being a face or a name, be the woman who is passionate about sky diving or the man who tries a new restaurant every week. Those slight personal details may be the keys to an interview simply because your interaction will have been remembered. So make it personal and not just factual; your resume is there to provide all the facts about your prior experiences.
Quality versus Quantity
Yes, there is a time limit. An efficient interaction (which will have an impact) will last up to 15 minutes or so, or else you will start to dangerously approach the too-invasive/ private-meeting setting phase which you should avoid for a first interaction. Be concise and make sure to deliver qualitative information about yourself. It is better to interact for a shorter amount of time but give a substantial idea of yourself, who you are and your goals, rather than to overdo it and risk drowning in boredom the person you are interacting with with a useless and overwhelming amount of information.
Authenticity versus Superficiality
Be yourself. Do not embody nor pretend to be anyone else just for the sake of impressing. As much as it seems like you are being tested during a networking interaction, you are also the one trying to realize if you could be a fit to that company or not. It is a two-way interaction. Expose your weaknesses, don’t try to appear overconfident or over-distressed. As a result from that interaction, they will want to know and speculate on if your personality can be a match with their company’s DNA or not. So keep it genuine and spontaneous.
Simplicity versus Complexity
And finally: keep it SIMPLE. Keep the complicated jargon for the actual interview or for your resume to say. When you are networking, of course you want to impress but not in the over-trying way. You want to be yourself and “sell” your best self by remaining as true to who you would be in an informal and more intimate setting. The conventions and the context may be different than when you last took a coffee with an acquaintance- but who you are isn’t. And trust me, the person you will be networking with will be able to tell if you are overtrying to appear impressive.