So on Thursday The Entrepreneur, The Undergraduate and I are off to the news:rewired conference hosted at MSN HQ. A full day of live blogging lies ahead and after all the hard work, networking drinks. It is perhaps the most important part of the day for an aspiring journalist hoping to break into the industry, a chance to mingle with professional journalists and get their foot in the door, so to speak.
The mere mention of networking sends a shiver down some people’s spines. A vital part of journalism there are various books and reams of information on “how to network”, but to be honest it’s quite simple: be friendly and talkative and people are more likely to remember you. As a naturally chatty person the thought of it quite excites me, I love meeting new people and the thought of making contacts that could lead to a job or internship fills me with excitement. However, some people find the whole process intimidating and nerve wracking. So here is a few, okay more than a few, (this is a two parter) tips on how to network…
By all means enjoy yourself. Press events are meant to be fun, the free drinks, lush food and goodie bags are great but essentially you must remember why you are there. As an aspiring journalist you are not yet “in” the industry, so you must use every opportunity you can to sell yourself. Networking does involve quite a bit of chatting, but you must remember you are there to make contacts not to merely chat to people about idle topics. Think about what you want to achieve from talking to these people and if possible whom you want to speak to. It can be tricky to know exactly who to talk to, but casually working your way round the room should bring you some luck. Relax, but most of all make the most of a networking opportunity, as you don’t want to leave empty handed feeling like you have missed out.
Talk the Talk
A friendly, yet professional manner can work wonders. This is no time to be shy so have the confidence to join with conversations, small talk about the weather and how nice the venue is are good conversation starters. Don’t be afraid to ask- where do you work? or what do you do? After all, this is a press event and everyone in some form or another is networking. The key is to be inquisitive and pleasant, confident but not too confident- arrogance after all is never a good look. An enthusiasm for your craft will impress others and may lead to them offering to help you out if you seem keen. So don’t make out you are already at the top of the tree if you’re not, as people may think you don’t need their assistance. Whatever you do, don’t sit in the corner by yourself- if you’re finding it all too intimidating try speaking to someone younger and friendly looking, a junior journalist can still be a good contact to have.
So you have chatted away and now have happened to get up to the point of swapping contact details. My advice: get your own business cards. They don’t have to be flash or expensive (I got mine from moo.com, funky and relatively cheap) and will save the awkward fumble for paper and pens. I’ve attended a few press breakfasts and events in my time and have learnt early on business cards are a small price to pay for that all important moment of swapping details. Swift and painless they save any thoughts on where should I lean, oh god do I have any paper, where’s my bloody pen?! You get it. It’s a red faced don’t, so save yourself the embarassment.
Stay tuned for the next installment of “how to network” on Friday and of course we’ll let you know how we get on in real life networking on Thursday…