Last month at DIG South, Catch joined other Charleston technology companies and set up shop at the Dig-A-Job Marketplace. Our theme was “Navigating Your Network”, so we invited Maga Design to join us in our booth to facilitate a conversation with candidates that stopped by to chat.
One of Maga’s specialties is graphic recording, and they helped us capture the thoughts of candidates as we asked them, “What is your greatest challenge when networking?” We had some great conversations, and learned a lot about what job seekers are thinking as they roll into events.
Here’s what they had to say and some advice from the Catch team about how to get over those networking hurdles:
What Events will Be Most Beneficial for Me
Where should you even start?!? Even here in Charleston, the networking opportunities seem endless. Every journey begins with a first step, so walk through the door of every event until you find one that works. As a starting point, be sure to ask your colleagues which events they like to improve your chance of finding the right fit sooner.
How to Approach People the Right Way
Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time (except for ninjas, of course), so walk right up to people, smile, and be yourself. One easy way is to simply ask, “What are you here for?” There is no right way, just YOUR way – and with a little practice, you’ll figure that out.
Breaking the Ice and Starting the Conversation
There are a ton of ways to get the conversation flowing, like asking someone why they came to the event or where they work, but I like to simply introduce myself (name, company, role) and ask what they do. They key here is to find what you’re comfortable with because you’ll be repeating it a lot!
Finding Common Ground
You never know until you ask, and that’s an easiest way to find a shared interest with a complete stranger. Ask about their company, position, industry, product/service, or office location – you’ll be surprised how quickly a shared interest rears its head.
Being an Introvert
Being outgoing can really help when networking, but don’t let your introversion get in the way. The two aren’t the same. Introverts really just want to recharge alone, not be alone – so seize the day, put that shyness on the shelf, and meet and greet while you’re out and about.
Research & Knowledge
Humans learn the most from others, so don’t feel like you have know it all when you walk in the door. Once you find that common ground, let the conversation flow – you’ll learn about industry trends, get different perspectives, and maybe a couple killer ideas all while building your network.
Wanting to Talk About Yourself
Your goal at a networking event is to actually meet people and make new connections, so save talking about yourself for your next job interview. Take control of the conversation and keep asking the person you’re talking to about about them – you’ll learn a ton and keep the focus off of you!
Finding Startup Jobs for College Students
Job listings are just that: job listings. My first job out of college was an un-posted internship I talked my way into, and my last job before Catch was an unlisted marketing director position. Networking gives you a chance to meet founders and sell them on a role for yourself – even if you’re a recent grad.
Continuing the Conversation After Event
Whether you write them on the back of a business card or digitally in your phone, between conversations be sure to capture your thoughts for following up later. After meeting 20 people and having a couple drinks, the details may be a bit blurry, so having a note or two will make that followup email a piece of cake!
It doesn’t matter how if you’re introverted, extroverted, shy, chatty, or always-the-life-of-the-party you are: when you show up at a networking event, it’s time to ask questions, listen, share a little about yourself, and make some new connections.
What do you struggle with when out on the networking circuit? Let us know in the comments!