5 tips to prepare for a successful networking experience

May 26, 2024

Whether you’re a recent graduate taking the first steps on your career journey or a seasoned pro in your field, networking is a survival skill for career success.

SFU Beedie’s Career Management Centre (CMC) supports students and alumni on their career journey by providing opportunities to network, including the signature summer career event, Beedie Connect, and the Beedie Career Expo held every fall and spring semester.

CMC also has numerous resources and dedicated advisors to help you put your best networking foot forward. They shared the following five tips to help you prepare for your next networking event.

1. Develop a 20-second elevator pitch introduction.

You’ll want to stand out from the many new connections being made at a networking event, so make your introduction short and memorable. Pique your contact’s interest so they’ll be curious to know more about you.

Your introduction should include:
• Who you are
• What you’ve done in the past
• What you’re doing now
• What you would like to in the future

Practice your introduction out loud and consider getting feedback from friends or colleagues to perfect it.

2. Have some ice-breaking questions in your networking toolbox.

Networking is about creating relationships and small talk is part of that process. If you find that difficult, prepare some ice-breaking questions that allow your contact to talk about themselves or their business. This shows genuine interest, and can lead to great follow-up conversations that flow easily.

Some conversation starting questions to try:
• How did you get your start in your business?
• What advice would you give someone just starting out in this field?
• What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?
• What do you see as upcoming trends in the field?

3. Research potential connections.

Know what companies and organizations will be represented at a networking event. If you already know you want to work for a specific company, do your research before attending.

Focus on recent news items about the company; learn about emerging trends, new regulations or policy that may affect their industry; and visit their website to understand their values, culture and structure.

Consider making relevant connections on LinkedIn or Beedie Advantage (for SFU Beedie students and alumni).

This information will help you network strategically, to meet your career objectives.

4. Brush up on your professional etiquette.

Make a good impression, socially and professionally, by using good business manners.

• Be friendly and down-to-earth.
• Keep a positive attitude and don’t speak negatively about others.
• Repeat a person’s name when being introduced. Offer a hand shake.
• Sit or stand next to potential new connections, not alone or just with people you know.
• Consume alcohol with caution.
• Always dress professionally, and don’t forget your name tag.

5. Pump yourself up.

Networking can be frightening, especially if you are introverted or shy. Keeping the following points in mind might help you overcome your fear of networking.

• Remember that many attendees are just as nervous as you are.
• Write down your strengths and approach networking from joy and strength, rather than fear neediness.
• Our thoughts and behaviour affect our feelings and physiology, so think positively and smile.
• We have no control over how others perceive us so say what you need to say, let it go and move on. Ruminating only makes it worse.
• Networking is about building trust and relationships—that’s a good thing!

For more networking advice like this or other tools for career success, login to Beedie Community to access various resources or book an appointment with a Career Advisor.