Checklist for Being Prepared for Networking!

But I never go to networking events and I don’t know what to do when I get there!  And frankly, networking events just make me uncomfortable!

The whole process of networking or building mutually beneficial relationships can be just as natural for you as anything else that you do as a regular habit!  It just takes practice.

Keep this checklist handy to make sure you take advantage of all of the disguised networking opportunities: Meeting people at a conference, a chapter meeting, a social gathering, a professional dinner, at Starbucks, in the bookstore or the lab, at the library or in a job interview.  Finding old friends on Facebook, sending cards, catching up through email, attending class reunions, stopping at the supermarket, standing in line at the post office.  Engaging in your favorite recreational activity, a walk around the neighborhood, hanging out at a local watering hole – and I probably haven’t even scratched the surface for opportunities to connect with people!

Here’s what you can do to be prepared!

  • Face, eyes, smile, hair, expression.  What is the first impression people get when they see you?  Are you approachable? Or do you scowl people away? Do your eyes light up with excitement and energy or do they say move on? Ask someone you know to tell you the truth about this!
  • Posture and body language. Do you stand tall and proud or do you hide underneath you sagging shoulders? Does your stance invite people to engage with you or do you close them off with your arms folded?  I dare you to talk to me!
  • Clothes and Accessories. Would your grandmother be proud of you?  Would your little sister stay away?  In the workplace you will find multiple generations.  Do you make a statement that says I only want to interact with people like me or do you have a universal appeal?
  • Eye Contact. Do you look people in the eyes and say I want to get to know you with that connection?  Or do you look away?  In North America people who don’t hold your gaze are assumed to be lacking confidence or not being interested in getting connected.
  • Your Handshake. A good solid handshake says as much as the direct eye contact.  If you hands are cold and clammy or sweaty, run hot or cold water on your wrists or use an antiperspirant as hand cream to have your hands be inviting to touch. Does your handshake communicate I am really glad to have this opportunity to get connect?
  • Your voice energy and volume.  Like the eye contact and the handshake,  the energy of your voice conveys a strong impression. Whether it is a phone interview or a face-to-face interview, speak with energy and confidence. Does your voice signal confidence or does your whisper convey the message that you are weak and ineffective?
  • Structures for Follow-up. Always have business cards or professional contact cards with you so that you can leave something with the person you meet.  And take small cards for you to record their name and contact information and key information in case they don’t have a card.  This makes it easy to follow-up with them and to build your network of relationships you can count on when you need some information or mutual assistance.

As you accelerate your networking and relationship building activities, you will begin to uncover more and more opportunities to show up as the confident and competent professional that you are.  Using this checklist will help you be prepared until it just becomes second nature to you.  And it will!