Workplace Rights

Weekly (6/29/09)

Topic of the Week  Standing Out From The Crowd - How to shine at a networking event

Networking Events:
• DO find group open to new members.
• DO move to eavesdropping distance.
• DO establish eye contact and smile.
• DO ask an easy question or make positive comment.

Your Rant: People always say to network. But I always feel like a jerk at networking events.

911 Repair,
Studies consistently show that networking is the best way to get hired. But that overlooks the main challenge, many people struggle with shyness and confidence challenges that make networking painfully difficult. Which reminds me of my father and how he used to serve me steak when I was growing up, he’d cut it into little bite-sized pieces for me.

It’s often very intimidating to walk into a networking event, all you see are groups of people engaged in conversation. That’s why bite-sized pieces is the metaphor for this week. Because when you break down networking into manageable parts, it’s often possible for almost anyone to “work” any room. I’ll give you three Do’s and one Don’t below to get you started. For more check out the book “Turn Small Talk into Big Deals” by Don Gabor (McGraw Hill, 2009).

DO find group open to new members. Some groups send a strong message that they don’t want any new members. You can tell because they don’t make eye contact with outsiders, they stand very close together and their body language screams stay away. I’m not saying that you have to treat these groups like Kryptonite, but you should be warned that they’ll be a tougher nut to crack.

DO move to eavesdropping distance. Bite-sized pieces, remember? You don’t have to immediately plunge into the middle of a group. You can lurk on the edge to get a sense of who is in the group, what they’re talking about, if it’s a group you’d like to get to know better and if they’re having fun. You can also see if anyone makes eye contact or in some way welcomes you to join the group.

DO establish eye contact and smile. I just visited New York City where people can be very talented at never making eye contact. In this setting you want to be an anti-New Yorker, you want to acknowledge any and all eye contact. For most of us, this takes some getting used to. If someone looks at you look back and smile. Heck, go totally crazy and nod your head. You can also use this as an opening to step physically closer to the group.

DO ask an easy question or make positive comment. Okay, this is where I often screw up. I barge into a group looking for a chance to say something memorable rather than blending in slowly. Taking an adversarial stance to something someone has said or making a joke right out of the chute can often be seen as threatening. Wade in before you dive in.

Take your next networking event in bite-sized pieces and you won’t get chewed up and spit out. You’ll actually become part of a larger group of people that won’t only help you get a job, but they can also help you once you start working.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own."

–Bob Burg

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