For many people, networking can feel like a foreign concept. In fact, many people think networking is downright scary. The truth is that networking and meeting new people doesn’t need to cause you stress. In fact, with the right mindset and plan of action, networking can be both fun and rewarding!
Whether you’re applying to college or trying to advance your career, you may find yourself in need of help at your next networking event. This is especially true if you speak English as a second language. You’ll likely encounter native English speakers at a networking event, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared.
Before we cover the 6 networking tips for non-native English speakers, let’s define the term “networking.”
What is networking?
In essence, networking is just socializing, but with a specific goal in mind. Usually, people network in order to gain useful contacts for career, investment, or educational opportunities.
Networking can happen at organized events, casual meetings, or even online. In fact, networking can happen just about anywhere!
How to Network Effectively as a Non-Native Speaker
Now that you know a little bit about networking, it’s time to look at how to do it effectively. Much like an English job interview, effective networking will require you to make a good first impression. From the location to your attire, there are a number of important tips that you should remember the next time you need to network in English.
1. Set a Networking Goal
Though you don’t have to set a goal in order to network, it certainly helps. Having a goal prior to networking will help you understand exactly who you want to talk to and why you want to talk to them. This will help you save time and focus on making contacts that can help you achieve what you want.
Here are a few sample networking goals to get your creative juices flowing:
- Introduce yourself to 15 new people
- Gain 10 new leads for your business
- Exchange emails or business cards with 5 potential clients
- Find 10 potential investors for your business start-up
- Talk to recruiters from 5 different universities
2. Write Down an Introduction
While you won’t want to sound like you’ve memorized your introduction, you’ll want to know what to say at networking events. You should try to keep your introduction relatively short and to the point.
Whether you’re introducing yourself to an individual or a group, you should generally provide your name and your occupation. As the dialogue progresses, you can begin discussing your experiences, your aspirations, and some of your key talking points (more on this later).
Needless to say, the content of your introduction should be completely unique to you. However, you will also want to be friendly and approachable, so you should try to use words and grammar that match the occasion.
Here is a sample introduction to give you a better idea:
Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met before. My name is David Smith. I work as a marketing consultant for businesses in the energy sector. What’s your name?
3. Dress to Impress
If you’re going to a fundraiser, job fair, or similar event in which you can network, you will want to dress for the occasion. For most networking events, you can plan on dressing in business casual attire. That said, you should always treat networking events like job interviews; the better you look, the more people will want to hear what you have to say!
However, not all networking occurs at a preset time and place. Sometimes, you might encounter a networking opportunity when you least expect it. While you can’t be expected to dress in business attire everywhere you go, you should avoid looking dingy or unkempt when you’re in a professional setting.
4. Develop Talking Points in Advance
Networking is a form of socializing and getting to know new people, but it’s also about making a good impression and cultivating new opportunities.
Do you have some positive work experiences that you’d like to talk about? Does your next business idea need investors? Or do you simply want to discuss new trends in your profession or industry? Before attending a networking event, you should try to figure out some key points that matter to you.
It is especially important for non-native speakers to figure out how to network effectively at an event. Once you’ve introduced yourself, what’s next? Small talk can help you be friendly in an English conversation, but it won’t necessarily help you reach your goals.
So, think about what you’d like to accomplish from networking and develop some talking points that will help you keep conversations going (while also advancing your own interests).
5. Show Interest in Others
Though you’ll want to set networking goals and talk about yourself, you won’t want to seem self-absorbed. People usually respond positively when you ask them questions about themselves and show interest in their answers. This is one of the easiest ways to be friendly in an English conversation.
Naturally, you will need to ask questions that make sense in the situation. However, there are some general topics and questions that will help keep the conversation pleasant and professional:
- Work – What do you do for a living?
- Hobbies or Interests – What do you like to do in your free time?
- Networking – Is this your first time at one of these events?
- Entertainment – What kind of books/music/movies do you like?
- Travel – Have you taken any trips abroad?
6. Diversify Your Networking Resources
It’s important to remember that organized events are not the only way to network. While attending events is the most traditional way to meet potential contacts, you shouldn’t limit your resources. Additionally, networking at organized events may not be feasible for everyone.
Thankfully, there are a number of alternative ways to network:
- Look for useful contacts within your friends and family
- Join a group from your school (sports club, fraternity, college alumni club, etc.)
- Volunteer in your community
- Attend local government meetings
- Reconnect with colleagues from previous jobs
Networking for Introverts
If you’re an introvert (shy person), networking in-person can feel like a nightmare. However, thanks to the Internet, there are now plenty of great ways to network without having to speak in public. Here are just a few ways to meet new people online:
- Join social networking groups (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Contact businesses via their website
- Join online forums related to your interests
- Look for local meetup groups related to your industry or interests
We hope you found this guide helpful! If you’d like to learn more about how to network effectively in English, visit Magoosh Speaking today!