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SPARK networking group

As a professional you know networking is key to career growth. Whether you are currently unemployed, seeking a new opportunity or simply looking to climb the corporate ladder expanding your network will help you reach these goals.

While there is nothing more important than connecting with people face to face, it can be frightening.  Some jobseekers would rather go to the dentist than attend a local networking event.  The Ann Arbor SPARK talent team complied a list of top ten tips to get you motivated:

  1. Select a niche mixer: Look for an event that surrounds a specific topic such as young professionals or Ann Arbor job seekers.  The tighter the topic, the more likely you are to feel comfortable with the crowd who attends.
  2. Wear your best: Business dress or business casual is recommended at networking events but do not forget your own level of comfort.  Whether you put on your favorite shoes or shirt, act like you’re getting dressed for a party — not a dreaded networking event.
  3. Set a goal: Make a goal for yourself when preparing for a networking event.  Whether it is to connect with one person or twelve, you will have a target to reach to keep yourself engaged.
  4. Come prepared: Reaching for something you don’t have handy can make you feel awkward.  Bring a stack of business cards, at least one pen and a breath mint.
  5. Find commonality: Do you see someone familiar or just a stranger eating an identical appetizer?  Start there and break the ice with a conversation about the item you have in common. Then be brave and focus the rest of your time with new people.
  6. Work the room: Standing in one area can be draining and will not allow you to connect with many people.  Feel free to break away from a group or an individual with a simple, “Oh, there’s someone I’ve been wanting to meet…”
  7. Bring a friend: Although you shouldn’t spend all night talking to your guest, having another person there can help make you accountable.  Just as you may have a workout buddy who helps you commit to the gym, you could bring a networking partner.
  8. Correct body language: Crossed arms, looking into space and standing off to the side can be read as “do not approach me” to potential connections. Smile, look people in the eye and keep something in one hand to ensure you don’t cross your arms.
  9. Give yourself credit: People want to get to know you.  A room full of people can be intimidating but remember that you have a lot to offer and other attendees may feel just as nervous.
  10. Go for it: The best way to enjoy networking is to simply go out and attend multiple events.  While your first few will feel uncomfortable, you will develop new connections and begin to see familiar faces at each event.

Networking is a necessity for anyone seeking to further his or her career.  By following these tips you will become more comfortable with networking and appear to enjoy these events.

Looking to get out there and start growing your network?  Attend Hot Shots – Career Connections and meet potential employers, fellow job seekers and local employment support organizations.