NACE16: Finished, But Not Forgotten!

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

NACE16 is over, but you’re just getting started! Remember to rekindle your connections, unpack the sessions you attended and share those with your team, and decide what’s next for you as you engage with your professional association. Whether you were a first-timer to the NACE conference or a seasoned expo goer, I think you will agree that the four days in Chicago were robust, thought-provoking, and quite the return on investment. The keynote speakers hit it out of the park. The content of their information aligned well with the work we all do around career readiness, STEAM, generational issues, and life profit! I think we could all use a bit more life profit.

Whether you collected business cards or connected through MLI alumni meet ups, LAP events, or hospitality opportunities, or grabbed lunch or dinner with old or new colleagues, staying connected will keep the information and conversations shared fresh and top of mind. You might remember President Dawn Carter challenging us to meet 50 new people while at the conference? I would echo her challenge and ask you to consider continuing the charge and connecting with members of our association. Did one of the sessions you couldn’t attend spark your interest, but you couldn’t be two places at once? Not a problem, visit NACEWeb and click on the MyNACE tab. Choose “purchase history” and click on the “Actions” arrow next to the conference. You will get a drop-down menu of options, including “View Handouts.” Find the handout for that session you missed. If you have more questions, contact the presenter/presenters. Our association members are excited about their work and willing to share best practices!

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

NACE16 rolled out the First-Destination Survey Results for the Class of 2015 and it was robust! The Advocacy Committee presented the most up-to-date information on FLSA and OPT changes, and discussed the NACE Position Statement on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination. The Career Readiness Tiger Team shared updates on the Career Readiness Toolkits and there was lively discussion around how institutions and employers are aligning and mapping the seven core competencies around career readiness within their work.

The conference provided Techbyte opportunities, SMARTalks, Innovation Labs, and an Innovation Challenge! Members of our organization were recognized for their dedication to the profession and their outstanding work that moves the needle for our association.

There is no doubt NACE16 was a success. That success is shared as there is so much happening behind the scenes that makes the expo hum. It’s our members, who share their time and talent with all of us, that keeps us nimble, informed, and prepared for what’s next to come in our professional work.

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

Kathleen Powell, NACE President 2016-17, speaks to the audience at the NACE16 closing session.

So, you might be thinking, “This is all wonderful, but I didn’t attend the conference.” Don’t fret my pets—(one of my grandmother’s favorite expressions)—you can find the Advocacy issues on naceweb.org! Looking for career readiness information, naceweb.org, looking for first-destination information, naceweb.org. Curious about all our association has to offer….naceweb.org!

 

Yes, the conference has come and gone, but the opportunity to engage with other members is just a website away. Don’t miss the opportunity for outreach to your colleagues, learn first hand what is top of mind for the profession, and don’t think the conference is one and done! I encourage you to find those 50 new people and take advantage of Face2Face, roundtables, training opportunities, and webinars! The possibilities truly are ENDLESS!

Building Memories

ongDavid Ong, Director, Corporate Recruiting, Maximus, Inc.
Twitter: @dtong2565
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/dave-ong/0/604/513

 

Now that #NACE16 is upon us, I found myself reminiscing last night. As part of the NACE Executive Board, I had a number of preconference commitments, and it was during the course of some of these interactions that I realized that this is the 15th anniversary of my very first NACE conference back in 2001 in Las Vegas! After absorbing that fact, I also realized that I was literally having cocktails with the three ladies who helped to make my first conference an experience that I remember vividly to this day.

David with Kathy and Vanessa.

David with Kathy and Vanessa.

I remember feeling very lost at the opening reception. It was a sea of people, almost none of whom I knew. I felt a little intimidated and a bit lonely (or at least as lonely as you can feel in a crowd of 2,000 plus people!). At that moment, someone tapped me on the my shoulder and said “You look like this might be your first time here…”. When I turned around, I was greeted by a woman with a huge smile who introduced herself as Vanessa Strauss (who would soon become the president of NACE). I responded that yes, this was indeed my first conference, and I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do next! She laughed, took my arm, and led me over to a group of people surrounding the front podium of the reception area, and she told me that she wanted to introduce me to Kathy Sims from UCLA, the (then) current NACE president. A long conversation ensued where I was welcomed as both a new conference attendee and a relatively new member of NACE. Both Vanessa and Kathy went out of their way to introduce me to several other members over the course of the week, which helped provide me with connections that I value to this day.

Flash forward another decade of so…..Kathy and Vanessa had been urging me for years to volunteer time with NACE, and truth be told, I fought off these overtures for years. They eventually wore me down though (they’re quite an effective tag team!), and I remember getting the call from Vanessa herself that I had been selected to serve on the Board of Directors. How fitting it was that one of the people that helped get me started on my NACE journey was delivering this happy news! And when the news became public, Kathy was one of the first to call with her congratulations, thus completing the circle.

David and Trudy

David and Trudy

Going back to Vegas…..My organization planned a fun university relations event for a small group of career center personnel at a nearby art exhibit. While I knew most of the attendees, this event afforded me some quality time with some particularly influential career center personnel. While there were several such individuals in attendance, I found myself drawn to the team from NYU, which was headed by Trudy Steinfeld. And while she and I talked for a couple of hours, it was amusing to me that we spoke very little about work! We talked baseball, living in NYC, our own college experiences, etc. When the event concluded, we didn’t just do the typical business card exchange; we actually made plans to meet up for happy hour a few weeks later in NYC.

From there, a wonderful friendship has bloomed. Trudy and I (and a large group of mutual friends) have shared cherished memories related to NACE activities, professional development opportunities, overseas trips, etc. When I am looking for professional advice, she is one of the first people I call for counsel, which says a lot.

Now that #NACE16 is ready for launch, I want to urge all of you newcomers out there (over 1,200 strong, at last count) to make the most of this first conference. Try doing these things: 1) Meet as many people as you can at the opening reception. Yes, it can feel pretty crazy, but remember that there a lot of people who have never done this before, so you’re not alone! 2) Attend the newcomer breakfast on Wednesday morning. You’ll get a chance to meet President-Elect Kathleen Powell and other NACE leaders who will be hosting the individual tables. They’ll answer your questions and talk about their experiences with our organization. 3) Don’t eat alone…..Don’t be afraid to sit at a lunch table filled with people you don’t know. Or to organize a group of people to grab dinner at one of Chicago’s many fine eateries.

David Ong

David Ong writing his latest blog while at #NACE16.

Now get out there and network! You’ll be glad you did….

#NACE16 Conference Time

Whether you’re new to NACE’s annual conference or this is your 10th time attending, here are things that will make this hectic and fun week easier.

naceappDownload the app and schedule your time. Set up your conference itinerary and use your smartphone or tablet to be your daily guide. The conference app offers information on all sessions, plus it links you to NACE’s social media so you can get updates and reminders for conference activities. You’ll find a map of the Hilton Chicago and the Expo Hall, and you’ll be able to message your colleagues through the app. To download this app, go to your device’s app store and search for NACE16. The app is free.

Need a little help using the app? Come to a free demonstration, 3 – 4 p.m. Tuesday, at NACE Connect in the Continental Ballroom.

Here’s the weather forecast. The average temperatures in Chicago in early June are typically in the mid- to upper-70s. AccuWeather.com says it will be mostly sunny the week of the conference.

comfortable shoesChoose your shoes for comfort. Business casual is the recommended dress for the event, but comfortable shoes are key. While regular conference events are on two floors of the Hilton Chicago, visiting the two exhibit halls and hitting the concurrent sessions means the potential for a lot of wear and tear on your feet. Wear your most comfortable shoes.luggage tag

Use your new NACE luggage tag. Spot your luggage (and that of other NACE16 attendees) at the luggage carousel quickly with NACE’s new luggage tag, sent to all NACE members in late spring.

Connect to colleagues (and more) in the NACE Connect area! When you’re not in a concurrent session or listening to a keynote, drop into the NACE Connect area to network with colleagues. You’ll find:

  • Recharging Lounge (sponsored by TMP Worldwide): Charge your phone or tablet while you rest your feet. Daily.
  • TECHbar (sponsored by Macy’s, Inc.): Learn how to use the latest apps and ask questions about how to make your technology work smarter for you! Daily.
  • Refueling Station: Snacks!
  • Welcome to Chicago Table (Tuesday only): Stop by and say hello to some of NACE’s Chicago locals and ask them what you shouldn’t miss while you’re in the Windy City.
  • NACE16 Mobile App Demo (3-4 p.m. Tuesday): Learn how to fully use the conference app.
  • Innovation Labs (Tuesday)
  • SMARTtalks (Wednesday)
  • Dinner sign ups (Wednesday)
  • Diversity & Inclusion Insight Labs (Thursday)

First time at the conference? Don’t miss the first-timers session sponsored by Raytheon Company, Wednesday morning in the Continental Ballroom. Spend an hour and eat breakfast while networking with other first timers. Get tips from attendees who have navigated the conference before on how to make the most of your conference experience.

plumshirtsIf the shirt is deep plum, it must be Tuesday. Questions? Need help? NACE staff is easily identifiable by the color of their shirts.

  • Wednesday: Red
  • Thursday: Teal
  • Friday: Green 

badgesIdentify attendees by their badges. Career services professionals wear blue badges; university relations and recruiters, red; business affiliates, purple; expo hall representatives, green, and NACE staff, black.

nace networkianPick up a ribbon for every badge. You’re not a speaker, an exhibitor, a board member, a first timer, or a blogger, but gosh darn, you’d like a ribbon to stick to your badge too.

coffee firstWell, this year, we have a ribbon for you! Twelve new fun ribbons—including NACE Networkian, NACE Nerd, Recruiting Superhero—plus ribbons to mark nace 60thyour 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, and 35th year as a NACE member.

Registration is open. Pick up your registration packet. Tuesday, June 7, registration is open from noon until 8:30 p.m.; and 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. An information desk will be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Friday.

Get free Wi-Fi in the NACE space at the conference. Login: TMP Password: TalentBrew. (Not available in the Expo Hall or in your hotel room.)

dancing shoesPrepare for a formal evening and wear your dancing shoes. Thursday, attend the NACE 60th Gala Reception from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom. Then, catch the bus to the Field Museum for the NACE 60th Gala Reception, dinner and dancing, 7 – 11 p.m. You must have a ticket to enter the reception.

Don’t leave your room without these things: Room key, electronic device with the NACE16 app and your schedule loaded, and conference badge (you can’t get into any sessions or events without it). Consider carrying a light sweater. Session rooms may be chilly.

Don’t forget to participate in social media. Tweet, Instagram, Facebook…share your conference experiences with fellow attendees and with those who couldn’t attend this year. See this great blog from Shannon Conklin and Kevin Gaw for details.

And, if you’re interested in joining the NACE blog team…ask for Claudia Allen at the registration desk!

Have a great conference and have a NACE Day! (Yes…we have that ribbon!)

have a nace day

Networking Made Easy for the NACE16 Crowd

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

Did you know that 90 percent of all people are afraid to walk in to a room full of people they don’t know? It’s true and that’s why networking, mingling, and “working a room” can be daunting! And you might be thinking, “Don’t I have enough connections?” Well networking is about connections and opportunities. So, how does one make the most of opportunities that are presented? Know before you go wins the day every time! With the NACE conference next week, I’m sharing tips that have worked for me. I call them the Three P’s to networking! Preparation, Practice, and Presentation!

Preparation. Before any event, I look at the attendee list, if available, to see who will be attending and what connection I’d like to make. For example, the NACE conference, go to myNace>events> NACE 16 Conference and on the actions carrot, select attendee list. Knowing before you go is a great strategy! Think about your purpose. Another suggestion made by a wise colleague, “You never know when you’re doing business.” What was meant by that is you could strike up a conversation in an elevator and later find out that individual would become a business affiliate or colleague. Go with a plan! Do you want to meet five new people, two new people? It is for you to decide!

Practice. How will I start a conversation, stop a conversation, present a business card? Make an introduction? In the age of technology with text speak and most communication coming through computers and handheld devices, I often get the question, “What should I say?” I smile and recommend, “Hello, my name is (you fill in the blank). It’s nice to meet you.” The person standing in front of you will politely respond and then you start your conversation. The real question I’m being asked is, “What do I say next?” It has to be your own words, but it could be something like, “Have you been to an event like this before?” or “What are you looking forward to with this event?” If the person has participated in such an event before, “What should I expect from this event?” or “Any advice for me?” All of these opening lines are open-ended questions where the person you are engaging with shares more than a yes/no answer. From there you may land on common ground and the rest is history, as they say!

Presentation: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I’ll repeat that, you never get a second chance to make a first impression! Think about it. How do you want to present yourself? It’s more than just your words! Perhaps this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it. Look the part! Being polished and dressed appropriately for the function you are attending will make you and those around you comfortable. Take your business cards and carry then in your pocket. I keep my cards in my right pocket and those I’ve collected in my left pocket. The last thing I want to do is dig through my handbag searching for my business card holder. I also keep a pen handy as well. After meeting with someone, I try to find a private space to write a note on the back of their card to remind myself if I need to follow up with any specific deliverable. Smile and make eye contact. It’s hard to make an introduction if you’re not looking at the person you’d like to meet! If the event provides name tags, wear them high on the right or if the lanyard tags are provided, make sure you “tie it up” so it hangs at the appropriate length!

Remember, if 90 percent of all people feel the same way about meeting new people, many of us are in this together! Be consider and appropriate, watch your time and be respectful, listen and remember to follow up. For those attending the NACE 16 Conference, I look forward to meeting you and for us to practice our networking skills together!

Here’s How to Prepare for #NACE16

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University
Twitter: @MarcGoldmanNYC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marcjgoldman

 

Hello, NACE blogosphere friends. It’s me, the prodigal blogger. It has been a roller coaster of a year in my shop, so I have not had a chance to post anything new and exciting to the blog recently. And for that, I am sure you are most grateful. But with another fabulous NACE Annual Conference on the horizon, I have come out of semi-retirement to offer some tips on making the most of this year’s conference. Of course, you can revisit my past blog post about people you should meet at a NACE gathering. It’s always a fun, diverting read.

What do I recommend you do in preparation for the conference? Here are my top five suggestions in no strategic order:

  1. Pack for anything and everything: Of course, this IS a professional conference, so you will need to present as polished and ready to work. But it is also a social event, so bring your party outfit or whatever you need to paint the town red. And because you will want to continue your fitness regimen, bring your best walking shoes or workout clothes. We will be in Chicago, but it will be June, so you make the call on a swimsuit. For a big twist, there is the splashy and flashy 60th Anniversary Gala, where cocktail attire is required. Please now refer to Google or Wikipedia for a good definition and examples of cocktail attire.
  2. Target your must-see programs: You have probably realized that a list of conference programs has already hit the interwebs. Review that list with care and try to prioritize which sessions are your “must haves” and “have nots.” That way, you can mark them down ahead of time, strategize how to get to most of them within the three-day program, and actually get a seat in the room. Yes, arrive early and scope out your spot. The rooms fill up fast.
  3. Make contact before the trip: Many of you use the NACE Annual Conference not only to educate, inform, and enrich yourself, but also to reconnect with colleagues and make new contacts. Don’t wait until June 7th to arrange your meetings, get-togethers, coffee chats, and breakfast catch-ups. You might find that everyone else’s calendars are booked solid. If there are people you definitely want to speak to live and in person, shoot them an e-mail now and get them to mark you down on their calendar. You’ll find a list of attendees under MyNACE > Events.
  4. Study the tech: If you are looking to discover what the latest and greatest resources, apps, and technology tools are for our biz, the conference Exhibit Hall is an awesome and mind-blowing venue. There is A LOT to take in, and it can sometimes feel so overwhelming, you just sort of float in and out of the room, never knowing at which booth to stop or to whom to pose a question. Do some homework ahead of time if you might be shopping for information or products and research the vendors to target and narrow down accordingly.
  5. Be ready to record and share: Whether you are cutting edge and have your handy iPad, laptop, or mobile device, or you prefer the old school approach of a pen and pad of paper, be ready to take notes. You will hear so many good ideas, nuggets of information, websites for future reference, and names of people to hunt down later on LinkedIn. And of course, your staff and colleagues left behind to hold down the fort will want a recap and for you to share with them all your pearls of wisdom gained. Make the report–out easy by doing the work up front at the conference. It would be challenging to bring back a deep dish pizza slice for everyone, but you can bring back a great number of takeaways nonetheless.

Saying Yes to the Global Career Services Summit

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

A few weeks ago I returned from the inaugural Global Career Services Summit held at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It was the brainchild of Bob Athwal, Director of Student Experience and Careers at the University of Leicester, and Tom Devlin, Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley Career Center.

The program was the first of its kind and included a group of 68 career professionals invited to participate and some select sponsors from eight countries. The primary focus of the summit was to share best practices, discuss accountability within our profession, examine the global work force of tomorrow, explore new career center models, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange among practitioners. Since it was, perhaps, the most beneficial professional development experience of my life thus far, I wanted to share a few reflections. I was struck most by the fact that we were all dealing with very similar issues. Yes, we have some different terminology. We use the terms “placement” or “career outcomes” where our U.K. friends use “employability.” But I left intrigued by how the challenges we face and the innovations we are attempting are quite comparable. For example, we all face the challenge of our institutions recruiting more and more international students, but our governments restricting their ability to work in our country. In fact, by percentage, our friends abroad face this challenge even more than we do in the United States.

Secondly, we are all acutely aware of federal—and in many cases more so state—pressure on institutions for positive career outcomes. At the same time, our Take the National Student Survey Todaycolleagues in the United Kingdom are dealing with the “DHLE” (Destination of Leavers). We now have NACE standards providing our institutions much needed structure to create an “apples to apples” comparison for parents (as noted in this recent article by Billie Streufert), they have the National Student Survey which was prominently promoted all over the University of Leicester student union area, including large promotions along their walkways.

There are striking similarities in how we are challenged with a barrage of reports about the skills gap our college graduates have. As we know here in the U.S., a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) task force comprised of representatives from both the higher education and corporate world developed a definition and identified seven competencies associated with career readiness for the new college graduate in 2015.

After being inspired to research a bit more what, for example, the U.K. is facing in this regard, I found an interesting blog from the London School of Economics and Political Science by Steven Ward. This helped me rethink the way I view this perceived gap and how we can add to the conversation in a different way. Without the conference, I would not have discovered this article and had my thinking challenged in that way.

The skills gap holds some new graduates back.It was also striking how we are sometimes responding in similar ways to external challenges. For example, during the tour of our host institution and career center at the University of Leicester, which has approximately 21 thousand students, we examined the efficiency of their appointment model and how they moved from hour-long appointments to 20 minute appointments with significant pre-work assigned to students in advance.

We needed to make similar changes at Binghamton University and moved to a structured amount of time for our walk-in appointments and to 30-minute individual appointments, allowing for us to grow our individual appointment number by 130 percent the following year with the same staffing. However, while we did have “pre-work” assigned to our practice interview appointment students, we have not done what Leicester has with our other appointments So, I plan for our department to examine that concept further.

And while we have dipped our toe into a program to assist in sophomore’s professional and leadership development skills, I liked seeing how Leicester partnered with an external vendor, The SmartyTrain, to create an innovative skills development program called “The Leicester Award.” I predict that we will, over time, see more career centers developing innovative ways to help students develop the key skills we know employers are seeking, rather than only educate students about what the skills are and how to best articulate their skills and strengths.

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Naturally the networking and new friendships made with leaders in our field that I admire was, personally, my favorite part of the conference. It was also noted as being one of the best benefits for others; 66 percent of the participants stressed the importance of networking as being a primary conference benefit. It set the stage for professionals in our field from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. to engage in meaningful relationships, thus opening up opportunities and potential collaborations that may otherwise not occur.

One of my biggest professional takeaways was around an idea that Paul Blackmore from the University of Exeter brought up one night at dinner. We often do not realize how we can get stuck in a systems thinking mindset within our own countries. When we expose ourselves to others outside of our regular connections and cultures, our thinking is challenged and we may take different—and better—approaches to solving challenges that we might not have otherwise even considered. We begin to question our own stereotypes and traditional ways of thinking, as well as aspects of our own culture that were previously unexamined. It all sounds quite similar to what we say our students gain when they study abroad, right?

I also left with some questions…

  • How much do economic conditions affect our profession’s current state of being and initiatives?
  • What would our experience have been with a mix of different countries? It was a great start, but we all agreed there were other countries that would be helpful in the future.
  • How can we continue the momentum and build partnerships with similar institutions as ours around the globe in order to better our service to students and employers?

I arrived home before heading to NASPA with a feeling of being so grateful for the initial invitation to participate. There was never any hesitation on my part since I have never been in a position to travel to Europe and have dreamed of going for years. Plus, the list of attendees was too great to miss. When I received the invitation I knew it would mean being out of the office for nearly three consecutive weeks in March for work and family reasons, plus it would mean flying my in-laws in to assist with our children since my partner would be traveling at the same time.

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

I would be remiss to not add how thankful I also am that Tim Luzader and Marianna Savoca, colleagues from our days at Indiana University, reached to out see if I would like to travel with them a couple days early to see London. Traveling with them was most certainly a highlight I will always treasure, too. The entire experience was, most certainly, one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. Saying “yes” to this invitation was a decision I’ll never regret, and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and those that made the summit happen.

 

Tips for Networking as an Introvert

tiffany waddellTiffany I. Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog: www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyiwaddell
Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

So… being an introvert does NOT mean you don’t have social skills. As career development folks, we all know this, right? Right. However, it does mean that for many of us, being around lots of people at one time can be draining. I am what you might consider an “expressive” introvert, so I am often mistaken as an extrovert. While both preferences have strengths and weaknesses, I love the fact that I am introspective— I enjoy real conversations [read: no small talk]—and can still make connections in a myriad of contexts. However, given that my day-to-day professional life requires me to talk to many different people, and I am fairly involved in our state association, I thought it might be helpful to share my top 10 networking tips that work for me, for readers who are still polishing their networking skills.

Find the refreshments! It’s always a great idea to position yourself at a healthy distance from the refreshments. Many people start there when they get to a networking event in order to take a break from a potentially overwhelming space. You can easily strike up a conversation as people turn around with a drink or food in their hands.

Set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, prep yourself mentally for what you are there to do. Is your goal to meet more people? Is it to learn more about the organization’s culture? Is it to meet one or two specific people? Make sure you set reasonable expectations before hand, so that you have a goal in mind. It is a great way to keep you from getting overwhelmed, too.

Start a conversation with a loner. It’s usually easier to start a conversation with someone who is standing alone, because they will most likely be happy to have someone to talk to—and as a result, are often more personable and easier to connect with.

Avoid barging into groups. A cluster of more than four people can be awkward—and tough to enter. Join the group on one side, but don’t try to enter the conversation until you’ve made eye contact with each person at least one time. Usually, people will make room to add you to the “circle” of conversation, and you can introduce yourself then!

“Look mom, no hands!” Keep at least one hand free at all times! This means no eating and drinking at the same time if you are at a networking mixer or conference reception. Leaving one hand free menas you can still shake hands with people without being awkward and fumbling around.

Be yourself. Networking events are meant as starting points for professional relationships. If you can’t be yourself—and you aren’t comfortable in your own skin—then the people you meet will be connecting with someone you’re impersonating, and not the real you. Be genuine. Authenticity tends to attract much of the same.

Be present and engaged. Ever talked to someone that acts like you’re the only person in the room? Someone who listens and makes you feel like everything you are saying is important? I love those people! They really make you feel heard. Keep eye contact and lean in or tilt your body toward people when you talk to them.  (Not in a creepy way. In a “I’m listening to you, and I’m fully present” kinda way.)

Treat people like friends. Unless, of course, you are a terrible friend. Would you go to a friend and interrupt their conversation, hand over a business card, and walk away?  No. Networking events are not transactions. Treat new people as you’d treat your friends—build a rapport, be trustworthy, and then talk shop.

72-hour rule. After a conference or networking event, you have about 72 hours to follow-up with a person on LinkedIn or via e-mail. Reference something that you talked about and ask what the best way to stay connected might be. After 72 hours—they might have forgotten you.

Practice makes perfect. Well, not really perfect. Progress is always better than perfection! The point here is that networking is a skill, like any other professional skill.  It is a muscle that you have to develop and grow. While others may look like born networkers, they are more than likely just more experienced with it. Mistakes may happen, but the only way to learn is to get out there and do it!

What tips and advice do YOU have that have worked for you when networking?  Are you an introvert?  Tell us more in the comments below!