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How to make a genuine first impression while networking

Illustration by Agnese Low

Originally posted from

Networking over the last decade has had a reputation for being dull. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some pointers that will help you keep a genuine perspective as well as being able to self-promote yourself without having to be over the top while networking.

We’ve all been to that networking event- with sharpie’d name tags, bright lighting, Cosco-style cheese cubes from a tray. Chatting with someone named “Chet,” just to find out their name isn’t really “Chet.” It’s mind-numbing. Despite how groan-worthy networking might seem, meeting people who can help you can be an important cornerstone of your career. Let’s face it, the circle of people you have around has the biggest influences of life choices around you, career too. You think it might be time to broaden your base for your career? How do we do this without feeling totally forced or staged?

You don’t need to pretend to be someone else when you network with people. Just think, they might have their own self-doubts and insecurities as you. There’s no need to put up a facade of corporate professionalism. You can be both a professional and a personality at the same time. So, the easiest solution is to just be yourself.

While being yourself might be the first step, it’s not the only step. By making sure you are attending and have the right networking events under your radar based on your general industry. Start local, and sprawl our your search on what makes sense for the job you want. Your main objective is to meet people who have diverse knowledge and skillsets offset from your own. They should have a similar drive passion, and values as your own. These factors will make it easier for you to collaborate.

Once you find the type of events you’ll feel most comfortable at (or what your wallet can handle) and where you think you might make the most meaningful connections. Here are a couple of tips for playing it cool while networking with others:

First impressions

Networking events can be stressful without any one-on-one opportunity, whether it’s a small group of individuals by invitation only or a larger open event, it’s important to make a good first impression just as a common courtesy.

Be sure that you show up on time and focused. This means not constantly checking your phone, dress in your best clothes or smart for your industry. Always make eye contact, especially when shaking hands.

Know your market

You’re already spending the energy on being at a networking event. Make it count and be prepared. Do your research before the event. Do some internet stalking (low-key of course) to see what kind of people are attending. By understanding their background of the person you’re meeting or the types of people who will be present. Know other commons interest in the industry can also lead to a more meaningful connection.

While you might not want to completely creepy someone out with your industry knowledge, it’s sensible to make light of large-scale career achievements or any press mentions (that are public, be wise to skip talking about their Instagram story.) People often remember those who notice something about them.

By broadening your network, it can connect you to new connections and those connections can develop over a time. Your focus should be on the way to make the other person much more comfortable enough that they want to continue to keep engaging with you. Even after your first meeting.

Give a lot

Speaking of Chets, mention the word networking to them and they seem to somehow showcase a personality that over exaggerates their skill sets and throw-up their wildest ambitions at you forcefully. Don’t be Chet, because it’s not about giving your sales pitch.

To be clear, networking is not about you. It’s about making real and meaningful connections with others and the more you show an interest in them, the more you can connect with them on a higher level.

It’s important to give a lot and take little. Ask questions that have the word “you” in it. When you can get the other person speaking about themselves to you in a one-on-one it makes the other person more comfortable.  You should really focus on the other person’s body language and read their needs. When you both are comfortable, the impact on the person will be greater than when they are in high-stress situations.

About the writer, Britta Buescher Britta is a creative director for one of leading comic book companies in the United States. She’s a leading voice for professional women illustrators, designers, and animators.

Find more at: Instagram: @outletepoch Twitter: @outletepoch

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