Thursday, March 20, 2014

Etiquette at Networking Events

It cannot be stressed enough how important networking is to job search and career progression nowadays. Networking is a key factor in landing meaningful employment after you graduate and can be crucial to upward mobility in the workforce or within a company. In addition, networking is one of the main ways to tap into the hidden job market where approximately 80% of the jobs actually are!

In order to build and maintain your network you should keep in contact with those you meet and attend networking events whenever possible, whether they are offered through your department at school, through Career Services, by your current employer, or by professional associations in your field.

There are certain things to keep in mind while at networking events so I will offer you my 2 cents on some important tips …

Communication Etiquette:

  • Use good body language: Maintain good posture, eye contact, and use a strong handshake

  • Let your voice convey energy, enthusiasm and interest as you speak
  • Make sure to read the person’s business card before putting it away

  • Engage in a few minutes of non-business related small-talk

  • Stand when being approached

  • Listen attentively

Dress Etiquette:

  • Always dress appropriately and professionally. Here are a few tips:
Wear comfortable shoes and hosiery to complement your outfit
Always wear an undershirt
Keep hair and nails clean and neat
Keep hair and nails clean and neat
Wear natural looking makeup and keep it to a minimum
Don’t wear ankle socks or light coloured socks with a dark coloured suit (or vice versa)
Don’t overpower your appearance with heavy scents (also, keep in mind that many places are becoming ‘scent-free’ and do not permit the use of perfumes)
Don’t overpower your appearance with heavy scents (also, keep in mind that many places are becoming ‘scent-free’ and do not permit the use of colognes)
Wear appropriate jewellery
Wear appropriate jewellery
Don’t wear tank tops with thin straps
Show a clean cuff: don’t wear a short sleeved shirt with your suit

Dining Etiquette:

Certain behaviour is deemed appropriate in different cultural, social and/or professional situations. Your ability to behave appropriately in various situations will demonstrate a sense of competence, and will likely create credibility. Here are some basic dining etiquette tips to follow if your networking event involves a sit down meal:

  • Eat to your left, drink to your right

  • Start with utensils furthest away from you and work your way in

  • Pass food from left to right

  • Taste food before you season it

  • Try a little of everything on your plate

  • Your napkin rests on your lap until the end of the meal

  • Wait until you are all served before beginning to eat

  • Your idle hand should sit on your lap

  • Chew with your mouth closed

  • Thank your host(s)

Here is an example of formal dining table set-up that you might find at a networking event in which dinner is served (refer to above tips for how to approach this set-up): 

Here are some additional tips for networking events in general...
The Elevator Pitch:

Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ prior to the networking event so that you always have something to start a conversation with. This is a short (about 30 seconds) speech about who you are, what you do, and what your future plans are. This is a great way to break the ice with other professionals at the event and can usually turns into a more in-depth conversation. You may find you have something in common with the person you are speaking with and right there you have most likely added someone to your network! Here is a great article by Forbes magazine that summarizes how to prepare an effective elevator pitch.

After the event:

Maintain the network that you have worked hard to build by keeping a database or file so you can keep track of everyone you meet. Write a few notes on the back of the person’s business card so that you will remember what you talked about. Keep in contact with your network so they don’t forget about you. You might offer to take them out to coffee to catch up every 6 months or so. Even if you just send them a quick/short email once in a while (or a link to an article you think they would be interested in – again, keep it professional!)…you never know what opportunities might come across their desk that they think you would be interested in.

Here is a great article by about networking etiquette that you might find helpful as well!

Happy networking :) 

Jami Coughler, Senior Career Assistant
4th Year Public Health [Honours] '14
BA: Sociology, Criminology Concentration [Honours] '11 

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