It will be inevitable. You will find yourself invited to a social event – a birthday party, wedding, dinner or holiday party – with the opportunity to meet new people, some of whom could potentially help with your job search. But is a social setting the right place to network? Maybe not. But it can be done if approached correctly. Here are a few tips for adding networking into your conversation naturally and without ruining the event.
1. Prepare for this event the same as you would a real networking event.
Craft an introduction before you go. Start with sharing how you are connected to the host or who invited you to the event. Perhaps your neighbor or co-worker invited you. Establish the personal connection. In many countries, personal connections are important. Think of current events that you can discuss as the conversation progresses. Topics like the weather or regional news are easy to talk about, particularly if you approach this as an opportunity for you to learn about your new country. Taking a few moments to prepare ahead of time will alleviate any fears you have about talking to strangers.
2. Do not push the fact that you are looking for work.
Eventually someone will ask you what you do for work. Be honest about your situation. If you are unemployed, mention that you are looking for work and what kind of work, but do not focus on it. Keep the conversation about work light. You will find that most people will inquire further about your situation. The key is to make sure you approach the conversation as a relationship building process. Your mindset should focus on how you can learn more about them, not how they can help you. This takes the pressure off the person and keeps it “social,” which will more likely open doors for you.
3. Make contact after the event.
This may be the one step most people hesitate to do. However, if you have worked on building relationships and personal connections with others at the party, asking for their contact information to schedule future get-togethers should feel quite normal.
Ask for the person’s email address. Then a couple of days after meeting, send an email stating how nice it was to meet them and that you would love to hear more about what they do. Invite them for coffee. And again, if possible, find something interesting that you can offer them before you meet. If you recently read an article that may interest them, bring it. Try not to make this feel contrived – keep it friendly and light. The conversation will naturally find its way to you and your situation, and they may have something to offer to you, as well.
These tips should work well in any country, but they are particularly relevant in countries like Brazil, where personal connections are so important. In countries where it is normally inappropriate to talk about yourself, these tips will also be very useful. Remember, stay friendly and approach the situation with the goal of building relationships, not just looking for a job. You will be able to socialize AND network at the same time! For more country-specific tips on networking, be sure to connect with a Career Coach.