Professional networking is more than just attending networking events and have conversations with random people. It is the ability to plan, prepare, and navigate through the extended network at an event to build your professional network and ultimately derive value for your business or career. It is also a great tool for young professionals to develop, because networking provides you the chance to meet and build meaningful connections with industrial experts and business leaders.
Today, there are plenty of networking events in Malaysia and as a young professional, you should definitely consider attending the ones relevant to your industry and career interests. Platforms such as Eventbrite, BEAM and Meetup are a great place to start exploring. To get you started, we have listed out some of the largest business networking groups in Malaysia which frequently organize networking events:
- Junior Chamber International – recommended for younger generation interested in entrepreneurship, focuses on general business concepts
- Business Networking International – recommended young professionals who are keen to develop long-term meaningful relationship with business leaders and professionals
- Business Networking Club – geared towards helping entrepreneurs and professionals, invites prominent speakers who share their expertise on different topics
As many young professionals tend to feel intimidated by these networking events and are unsure how to effectively prepare, we have outlined for you 4 simple tips on how you can effectively plan for your first networking event.
1. Conduct Extensive Research on the Event and Attendees
Simply attending random networking events can be a waste of time. As such, you should make the effort to look for ones that align to your industry and career interests. Once you have identified a suitable event, you can then gauge the audience and prepare a list of questions to help you kickstart conversations.
Once at the event, you do not necessarily have to engage every single person in the room. Instead, target the right people to approach at the event. If you prefer, you can reach out to the attendees in advanced. Search for their LinkedIn profiles to know more about them, and send a personalized email to introduce yourself to have a headstart.
2. Make Effort to Look Professional
Dress to impress. Admit it or not, everyone judges people by their appearance, including the corporate world. Making a positive first impression can really help in dictating others’ perception on you. Opt to go for a clean, wrinkle-free, and (if possible) custom-fit clothing to make yourself stand out in the crowd.
Furthermore, you must take note of the dress code of the event and understand the difference between the terms ‘black tie formal’, ‘business casual’, ‘smart casual’. You definitely wouldn’t want to dress too casual at a formal event, and conversely, it might be awkward for you to wear a full suit to an event where everyone will be in T-shirt and jeans.
It is also important to be well groomed. Make sure your hair looks good – style it and avoid frizzy hair. For men, trim your facial hair so that you look clean and neat.
3. Prepare Personal Business Cards
Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, because they are essentially your gateway to networking opportunities. You do not want to scribble down your contact details on a piece of paper and give it to your potential client or employer – it just doesn’t look professional.
Do note that your business card represents you. If your current employer does not provide you with a company business card, you can opt to prepare personal business cards instead – just ensure it looks professional and keep the design simple.
4. Plan Your Entry and Exit Strategies
Knowing how to kickstart a conversation with people is extremely essential. Instead of just standing beside people and wait for them to initiate, try introducing yourself and ask if you could join them. You could also partner with someone and walk around together, this would help you feel less intimated while approaching a group.
Planning for an exit strategy is also equally important. You will need to know how to end a meaningless conversation with people politely. At the end of the day, you attend networking events to connect with more people, therefore you should not spend too much time talking with just one or two person.
Just relax and be yourself. At the same time, be excited to meet like-minded people at the networking event. You might end up meeting the best friend in your life, or your business partner in the future.
It is also advisable to follow up with the people you have met – be proactive by connecting with them via LinkedIn, send them a personalised message, or maybe ask them out for a coffee. Remember that network is the greatest tool one can have in the business world. Therefore, walk out of your comfort zone and meet some of the interesting people out there!