Networking events are awkward. And when you don’t go to them often, you might have no idea what to do or how to act.
Use these tips to save yourself from potential embarrassment:
1. Wear an appropriate outfit
If you have to wonder whether or not your outfit is appropriate for a work function, it isn’t.
This is important. If you even have to think about it for one second, turn around, go to your room, open your closet and change. When you’re going to a work event, the last thing you want to do is look like you’re going clubbing afterwards. GenY has a hard enough time being taken seriously in the workplace as it is.
Make sure to dress the part. There’s nothing wrong with being trendy—just don’t give people a reason to say anything negative about your attire. You want to be remembered, yes. But you don’t want to be remembered as the one with the teeny tiny skirt and skin-tight shirt. (No matter how good you look in it.)
2. Have only one drink—you’ll thank yourself later
This is a big one. Most people avoid networking events like the plague. But of the people who do actually attend, many go for the free booze. Recent grads often don’t have a lot of money. And we’re thirsty. It’s hard to turn down free alcohol.
But at these events, you should do just that.
When you get there, grab a glass and get to know it. Become its friend. Because it’s the only alcoholic beverage you should have while there. A lot of people enjoy alcohol because it gets them to loosen up and makes these awkward situations a little more bearable, but you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. Not here.
Make a fool of yourself later, with your friends. Somewhere where your actions aren’t going to affect future potential job offers. Those free drinks could end up costing you much more than they’re worth.
3. Be interesting
Do. Not. Be. Boring. Most people at networking events are kind of stiff. Personality level? Zero.
Be yourself and don’t be afraid to talk about things unrelated to work. You like to go scuba-diving? Sweet! Talk about it. You studied abroad in college? Talk about your favorite place to eat in Italy.
If you want people to remember you, you need to be interesting. Simply reading off a script and reciting your previous work experience will most likely bore everyone to tears. And at the next event, they’ll make sure to avoid you.
4. Be interested
While it’s important to be interesting and share your experiences with others, don’t forget to be interested, too. Ask people about their lives. Ask them about their experiences.
No one likes the person who just doesn’t shut up. It shouldn’t be all about you. Make sure that the conversation goes both ways. It’s only polite.
5. Be confident
The most confident person in the room holds the most influence. If you go to a network event and you’re not sure what to do, you’re not confident, you’re feeling super awkward and you ultimately spend the whole night just standing next to that tree, people will notice.
Own the fact that you’re there. You have just as much a right as anyone else to be there. You are interesting. People do want to talk to you. And there’s nothing awkward about this.
So, make an effort to be confident, even if you’re pretending a little. Don’t just go to eat the food.
Kayla Cruz, founder of Gen Y Girl, is a young 20-something just entering the workforce who’s hoping to share her experiences with other young professionals. She’s not bratty, just opinionated, and writes at www.lostgenygirl.com.