Networking. The word alone sounds unappealing, it rolls off the tongue while conjuring up uncomfortable images of awkward social situations. However, networking is an important part of getting to know the people in your industry, and ultimately landing a job.

While it might seem insincere to attend an event for the sole purpose of meeting people who hopefully have the right connections, it’s not. There are tons of people who are glad to introduce the right candidate (you!), but all they need to do is become aware of your existence.

 If the main reason you’ve been avoiding networking events is simply because social settings make you uncomfortable, here are 10 tips to help you become the master of your networking domain.

1. Keep your goals in mind: Always remember that this event, and the people who are there, could be the missing link between you and the job you were perfectly designed for. Take a look at your five year plan and know that meeting the right person could bring you one step closer to achieving your goals.

2. Ask for introductions: Walking up to a random stranger and introducing yourself is intimidating in the best of circumstances. The easiest way to break the ice is to ask a mutual contact (personal or professional) for an introduction. This also gives the two of you something in common.

3. Have your elevator pitch ready: This doesn’t mean giving the same spiel repeatedly.  Know the main points that you intend to convey about yourself and be ready to share.

4. Know your brand: Know what makes you unique, what standout skills you have, and proudly share them.

5. Have your business cards handy: If you don’t have one then have some printed. It’s important to have something tangible to exchange when the opportunity arises.

6. Smile: It seems obvious, doesn’t it? We often forget to do so when we’re nervous.  Smiling makes you appear pleasant and will instantly make you more attractive. A disarming smile can be one of your best weapons.

7. Open bar? Limit yourself: As tempting as free drinks are, it’s important to limit yourself and maintain your composure. Have one, but do not exceed two. Getting sloppy is never OK.

8. Know when a conversation has ended and exit gracefully: When a conversation begins to feel forced, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and move on to the next person.  Always remember to let the other party know how nice it was to meet them.

9. Anticipate questions and know how to accept rejection: It is inevitable that people will have questions about who you are, what you do and what makes you special. Try to think about these questions in advance and have an appropriate response. Sadly not everyone will be ecstatic to meet you. When you come upon a less than polite individual, take a deep breath, smile and move on. Above all, do not take it personally.

10. Follow up quickly and effectively: Don’t wait days, weeks or months to reach out to your new contact. It’s important to stay current. A maximum of three days may pass before you call or send an email expressing your pleasure and gratitude at meeting someone. It’s polite and keeps you at the forefront of their minds.

With these tips in mind, go out and make your presence known. And always remember to have fun! An event is only as enjoyable as you make it.

~ Cheronne Thurab