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Like it or not, today’s job force often depends on who you know.

It’s become necessary for those looking to advance in their careers to build an established and diverse professional network. Yet, events designed to facilitate networking can often feel forced and insincere, especially if job seekers don’t know the proper etiquette.

A successful networking appearance doesn’t rely solely on a loaded resume and big smile. There are several ways to prepare and interact so that you leave a positive impression and ultimately build your network.

To help out, we’ve listed the different steps you should take to ensure you ace your next networking event.

Do your research

It’s important that you research the companies that will be attending days in advance. This will not only help you determine which organizations and people you want to approach, but it will also give you an opportunity to learn about their work and strike up more informed conversations.

Most professionals appreciate speaking with potential candidates who have clearly taken time to educate themselves. It demonstrates your interest in their company, your knowledge of the industry, and your potential for future job openings within their organization.

Most event organizers will share a list of attending companies and recruiting agencies just for this reason. Spend some time looking into those that strike your interest. There are plenty of online resources, like Glassdoor, that provide helpful information about companies like their history, employee reviews, and industry to round out your research.

Plan your appearance

Professionalism and confidence are the keys to making a positive first impression with others. Make sure you plan your outfit well ahead of time to account for any unexpected wrinkles or stains. You should dress as you would for an interview: a suit for men and a pantsuit or dress and blazer for women.

Just be sure that whatever you wear makes you feel self-assured. Don’t force yourself into an ill-fitting jacket or unsteady heels; your discomfort will show in your posture and demeanor.

Confidence in your appearance, however, is just as important as your outfit, yet often gets discounted. You should be able to carry yourself with certainty while smiling and speaking face-to-face. Consider putting extra time into a self-care routine in the weeks before the event to ensure you’ll feel comfortable in your own skin. An acne medication or hair loss treatment can clear up insecurities and help you enter any networking event with all-important confidence.

Focus on others

While it’s important to sell your experience and abilities at these types of events, try to do so without focusing the entire interaction on yourself. Engage in conversations by asking questions of those you meet and then listen actively– maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and asking follow up questions. This should not only help you stand out as an interested participant, but it will also likely lead to a more robust and personal connection.

Have multiple, updated copies of your resume and business cards in a folder so you can easily share them, but only bring them out if it naturally comes up in conversation. Instead of forcing the issue, focus instead on building a personal connection or asking for advice. You can always send a follow up with more information about yourself later.

Send a follow-up email

It’s crucial to circle back with those that you are interested in adding to your professional network permanently. Taking an extra step outside of the event’s context can cement a connection and help you stand out from the crowd. A well-written and thoughtful email, in particular, can go a long way in proving your communication and interpersonal skills while leaving a lasting impression.

Thank the recipient for their time and for sharing their thoughts with you. Try to mention a specific topic that you discussed– whether it be about fishing or industry advancements– just to add further personalization. Then, move in to ask for career advice, a future meeting, or job opportunities.

Those are our tips. Can you think of any other tips on how to leave a positive impression at networking events? Then let us know in the comments below!

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