When it comes to activities that most people dislike when conducting a job search campaign, networking tops the list. From vice presidents on down, the lament is: "I'm not good at it" or "I'm shy." This response comes from professionals who are otherwise at the top of their game!

All the tips in the world won't help unless you find the motivation to attend an event. But once you've decided to go, these tips can ease the process by increasing your self-confidence and optimizing the time you do spend networking.

Before you go...

1. Exercise Extreme Self-Care.

Do something you love before you mingle; pamper yourself. Indulge in a massage, your favorite snack or a conversation with your best long-distance pal. Whatever floats your boat. The object here is to walk into that room or make that call feeling confident and primed.

2. Choose your outfit.

Wear what you feel your best in. Ideally, choose an outfit that has been road-tested. You can personalize your "look" by adding eye-catching accessories — an unusual tie, a great necklace or pin. Note for women: it's best to wear a jacket with a lapel. Many events provide name tags that hang by a metal clip. If your jacket or top does not have a lapel or collar, you will end up with your name tag hanging from the hem of your jacket, and your name won't be visible.

3. Add polish.

Go the extra mile to shine. Have a manicure, repair and shine your shoes, get a haircut or blow-dry. Polish your language as well. Eliminate colloquial words such as "thing" and "stuff." Imprecise language will detract from your image.

4. Get there early.

You'll get to connect with others who are eager to network during the quieter time before the room fills. This pre-event phase provides an opportunity for a slightly longer conversation with a new contact. Another reason for arriving early is that you can choose a good seat for a breakfast or lunch presentation.

5. Bring at least 10 business cards.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I've been at events where people didn't have cards. I will even go so far as to say, don't attend unless you bring cards. Even if you're out of work, it's easy to get cards printed with your name and contact information.

6. Prepare yourself mentally.

What are you going to talk about? You don't have to sound like Diane Sawyer, but you do need to be able to start a conversation. Talking about a current movie, your latest vacation or a best-seller is a good opener. It's especially important to have a few topics prepared in advance if you're intimidated by the thought of walking into a room full of strangers.

7. Prepare your answer/s for the question: What do you do?

Often at a smaller networking venue, you'll be asked to stand, give your name and briefly explain what you do. You need to be prepared with one or two memorable sentences. For example, when I am asked, I say, "I'm a career and executive coach, and I help people become more successful at their work, so they can face Mondays with a smile." Using your moment wisely can be a way for you to generate interest in you or your product/service.

8. Ask yourself: Is this the best venue?

Decide which event(s) would make the most sense for you in terms of your goals. If you're unsure of an organization's appropriateness for you, attend one event as a guest. Then, ask yourself, how did you feel at the event? Were there like-minded people with whom you connected? Was the group open and welcoming to new members? I'd recommend that you attend no more than 1–2 events a month, especially when you’re getting started.

9. Have the intention of building relationships.

Establishing and building relationships, not hard selling, is the key to successful networking. Be prepared to share your expertise, contacts and compassion.

10. Ask yourself: Why are you going?

Get clear on your reason(s) for attending this event. Once you identify your goals, you'll be that much closer to realizing them. Let's suppose you'd like to develop leads for a new job. You'll need to develop a brief synopsis of what you do and what makes you and skill set/expertise unique.

Prepare a straightforward statement that can be incorporated into your conversation only after you've established rapport. Rehearse this synopsis until you can present it with ease.

For example: "I'm a Human Resources professional who loves recruiting. In my last position, I was able to reduce recruitment costs by 40%. I'm seeking a position in which I could use those talents. Perhaps you know of companies that might benefit from my experience?"

A final tip....

Networking at an event is like performing. You need to be “on” and projecting your best self. Often, there is a letdown afterwards. (Or a feeling of relief!) So, make sure you give yourself a treat or reward after the event.

Author's Bio: 

Dale Kurow is a Career and Executive Coach. She helps her clients create successful job search campaigns and career transitions and to find personal enrichment in their vocations. She is a human resources professional with over twenty years of experience in guiding corporations to maximize the potential of and retain valuable employees. In addition to a Masters in Career Counseling and Coach training, she is qualified to administer and interpret Myers-Briggs and the Strong Interest Inventory assessments.

To subscribe to her free newsletter, Career Essentials, please visit www.dalekurow.com.

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