Networking. It can help you advance your career, open up more job opportunities, improve your skillset and stay on top of the latest trends in your field.

It can also be an overwhelming and anxiety-inducing experience, especially if you are new to an industry and trying to make connections for the first time.

Here are our top tips for becoming better at networking.

Focus on what makes you feel confident

Whether it’s an online meetup or an in-person event, as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it’s always important to consider your appearance. Whether we like it or not, first impressions start with how you look, so be sure to dress appropriately for the event.

But no matter what the dress code, choose an outfit and hairstyle that makes you feel at your best. If you feel comfortable and confident in how you look, that will show in how you carry yourself, which has a positive effect on a person’s impression of you.

And while it might take you outside of your comfort zone, making a habit of networking at industry events will help you become more confident, especially as you make more connections.

Practice your “elevator pitch” ahead of time

An elevator pitch is the part of your introduction when you explain what you do professionally. You generally want to keep it short (30 seconds or less) and concise, focusing on a few sentences about your company and what you do.

In his book, Elevator Pitch Essentials, author Chris O’Leary recommends sticking to the nine C’s, including concise, compelling and customized, when crafting an effective elevator pitch.

Make eye contact

This is a little more important when it comes to in-person events, but one common mistake many people make at conferences or other networking events is looking at someone’s nametag first instead of making eye contact.

The best way to make a great first impression is to give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and smile as you introduce yourself.

Making eye contact gets a bit trickier when it comes to virtual events. The only want to make eye contact with someone online is to look directly at the lens of your camera, which might feel strange at first. Most people naturally look at their screens so they can see everyone else.

Ask people about themselves

Not sure what to say next? Ask people about themselves. It’s a fact – people love to talk about themselves.

And this is something you can use to your advantage if you find the conversation lagging at your next networking event – ask a lot of questions. And if you’ve exhausted all the industry-related questions, ask people what they like to do outside of work or the latest book or article they may have read.

Want to practice your networking skills? University Canada West’s Learning Success Program recently introduced the Networking Club. During bi-weekly sessions throughout the term, students can unwind at the Networking Club and meet other students.

At each session, participants will have an opportunity to discuss their experiences, thoughts and ideas around different topics. Upcoming topics include the start-up culture, cryptocurrencies and business wars, and develop connections with their peers.

For more information about the Networking Club, visit the Learning Success page in the MyUCW Student Portal.

Published on July 30, 2021.