How to Meet Friends and Mentors at Networking Events
Are you in need of some new friends or possibly an amazing mentor?
Recently I moved countries. It was all excitement and rose tinted glasses at first, but I managed to be realistic: I knew that to make the most of my new situation I needed to befriend some like-minded people and even find a career guru who could guide me in the big wide world. Now it has been over six months, and not only do I have amazing new friends but also one fabulous mentor!
For many women, however, even the word ‘networking’ sends a shiver down the spine. If you find walking into a room of strangers stressful, then perhaps you haven’t found the method of networking that works best for you. To help you successfully establish relationships, and remain authentically yourself whilst doing so, I’ve put together a few tips on how to make friends and meet mentors at networking events:
1. Be Selective (Be You)
First off, you need to ensure the event you are attending is relevant. What is the point of going to an evening for inspiring abstract artists when you don’t even like that type of art? The best way of making new friends is by attending events that suit your personality and interests. Don’t try and mould yourself into something you’re not; think about environments and subjects with which you’re comfortable and go from there.
2. Knowingly Sell Yourself
Once you have that sorted you can then work on your sales pitch. Yes, I just said sales pitch, because that is the fundamental point of networking: you are selling yourself to others in a bid to make friends/acquaintances or even find a mentor in your field. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, you just need to say something along the lines of, “I have moved to a new city and I am looking for ____”, or, “I love to meet new people and I am interested in learning what I can about ____”. Adding such statements into conversation gives an opening for people to convey their interests and discuss any possible alignments for work or further gatherings.
3. Follow Up
At the event, make sure you try and talk to everyone; do not leave a stone unturned. I found the people I thought I might hear back from never replied, and the people I didn’t remember too well did. Make sure you take business cards with you, but equally ensure you ask the people you meet for theirs. After the event, don’t rely on other people to make contact but take the initiative and send an email. You may never hear anything after you hit send, but then again that single email could be the start of a professional acquaintance, friendship or even a new job.
Oh, and talking of, well, talking, it is just as important to make sure you listen. There is a difference between passively listening and actively listening, so ensure you are hearing what the person is saying and make note of it. (Note: be prepared to have your ear talked off by some of the people you approach! Just smile and politely excuse yourself when the opportunity presents).
4. Take An Interest
Now here is the tricky part: finding a mentor. Mentors are different for all of us. A mentor could guide you through your career, advise you on setting up a business, or they could just be a person who you can chat to about certain issues. I have spoken with many people who are mentors and the common theme they agree on is, “We want people who are interested in us and not what we can do for their career”. I agree that there is a fine line between using the wisdom passed down from a mentor, and down right using them and their connections to climb the corporate ladder. Make sure you fall on the right side of the line and you will build a relationship that flourishes.
Like anything in life, making friends and meeting mentors requires putting yourself out there and finding what works for you. Know yourself, figure out a few go-to networking tools, and set yourself up for relationship-building success!