How to Dress for a Networking Event

Networking events present great opportunities to meet new people and expand your professional network, regardless of whether you are new to your industry or an established name. But deciding what to wear to a networking event can be difficult. If you dress too casually, you risk coming across as unprofessional or sloppy. On the other hand, if your outfit looks like you just came from a board meeting, you could be seen as stuffy or unapproachable.

Finding a way to balance two completely different styles can seem impossible, but it’s essential when you want to leave others with a great impression. Below are a few ideas to help you strike that perfect balance.

1. Plan ahead.

We’ve all done it: You wait until the last minute to pick an outfit, and then realize you’re missing a piece, or part of it isn’t clean. Since every networking event has the potential to change your career, you owe it to yourself to be prepared. If possible, plan your outfit at least a week before the event. You might realize that you don’t have the right color tie or shoes, so this buffer time will give you some breathing room to find what you need. (Bonus tip: Choose a backup outfit in case something comes up and you need to go to plan B.)

2. Consider L.O.T.S.

When planning your outfit you’ll want to factor in several key aspects of the event: Location, Occasion, Time, and Season. For example, a winter evening gala at the Ritz? Tuxedos for men; dresses for women (and layering for everyone). A summer daytime retirement BBQ at the park? Think lightweight and airy, such as shorts and a casual button down for men; sundress for women. A spring morning mixer at the vineyard? Outdoor casual.

Knowing those four details will help narrow down your options while ensuring that you’re properly prepared.

3. Find your fit.

Your outfit might consist of several well-fitting pieces, but all it takes is one thing to ruin your entire look. (Exhibit A: blazer with sleeves too short.)

To nail that perfect fit, make sure that nothing restricts your movements. Test it out by walking around in it, touching your toes, raising your arms over your head, and twisting your torso. If you’re able to do all of that without struggling, it passes the test.

Next, walk over to your full-length mirror. Do any pieces look baggy? Check the closet for substitutes that might work better.

Lastly, do you feel good with your look? Being uncomfortable at an event can affect your confidence, mood, and body language — so make sure that you’re happy with your look before leaving the house.

4. Keep it simple.

While your attire can certainly help you make the right impression, you want your personality and social skills to be what people remember. Avoid wearing anything that might distract others from your conversation, such as flashy jewelry, bright colors, or bold patterns. When it comes to networking events, safe and traditional > avant-garde.

5. Don’t overthink it.

There’s a lot to consider, and a lot on the line. But if you plan ahead, properly prepare, and consider all the event details — you’ll feel less stressed, and more confident about your choices.

If, after all of that, you’re still feeling unsure or overwhelmed, think about clothing brands that market business casual fashion and try replicating one of their looks with items you already own. Need visual examples? Run a Google image search for your type of event. (Example: “summer cocktail attire for women”.)

Creating a Stellar LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn was created with the goal of connecting professionals through a network of social media profiles. Today, LinkedIn boasts over 500 million members worldwide and has become the go-to networking site for professionals looking to advance their careers.

Creating a professional profile on LinkedIn isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Follow these steps to create a powerful profile that will help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Start with your headline.

You need to be able to capture someone’s interest within the first couple of sentences. Think about the headlines that get shared on Facebook or Twitter. They tend to be short and sweet, but still grab attention. Make sure you use keywords that match the type of person you’re trying to attract. Use words that describe who you are and what you do.

2. Craft an interesting summary.

Your summary should tell people why they should care about you. It’s where you introduce yourself and what makes you different from others who may apply for the same job. Include keywords that match the job description.

3. Highlight your experience.

Your profile should include at least three pieces of information: your education, skills, and experience. For each section, think about what differentiates you from others.

4. Put specific accomplishments under past jobs.

The best way to show off your accomplishments is by listing them under past jobs. For example, “I worked at XYZ Company for three years as a product manager” or “I was the lead developer on project X for two years.” This makes it easy for recruiters to see what skills you have and what projects you’ve worked on.

5. Use a professional photo.

A professional photo can really set you apart from the competition, and is one of the most important things you can include in your profile. Avoid using casual non-professional photos; you don’t want that pic from last month’s toga party to be the first thing a recruiter sees.

6. Keep it simple.

People who look at profiles spend less than two seconds scanning them before moving on to the next one. So it’s important not to over-complicate your profile. Use bullet points to break down key information into bite-sized chunks. Avoid adding too many photos to your page, as they take up space and people don’t have time to click through them all. Instead, use a few high-quality images that speak for themselves.

7. Be honest and genuine.

The best way to attract new connections is by being yourself. Don’t try to fake it—you won’t fool anyone. Instead, focus on building relationships based on mutual interests and values.

8. Start making connections.

The first step is to connect with people who share similar interests. One of the easiest ways to do that is by joining groups related to your industry. Groups are very important part of LinkedIn—they can be a valuable source of industry information (everything from news to sales leads) while providing you with a great opportunity to expand your network. Lastly, don’t forget to ask your personal contacts to follow you on LinkedIn once your profile is complete.

 

These suggestions are just a few helpful tips on creating a great LinkedIn profile. It can help to have a friend or two review it for spelling, grammar, and helpful suggestions. After you finalize it, make sure that you revisit it frequently to update any new accomplishments, skills, or experiences.

Common Networking Mistakes & How to Fix Them

It is said that the most connected people are often found to be the most successful. Networking is one of the best ways to make those connections, but quality networking takes time and effort. While you may not feel comfortable with it, or don’t think you are great at it, just know that it is a learning process. Let’s look at a few of the common networking mistakes and how to fix them.

1. You don’t actively listen to others.

Passively nodding to show that you are listening isn’t enough to build a networking connection. Active listening involves stimulating the speaker and conversation. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t allow yourself to disengage from the conversation, even if you are attending a crowded networking event.
  • Maintain eye contact and ask engaging follow-up questions. This can show your genuine interest and is said to help you be more memorable.
  • Focus on finding things in common to build strong, lasting relationships.
  • Practice mindfulness so that you can be aware if you are talking too much about yourself.

2. You only network while you’re job hunting.

Networking should be a continuous process throughout your career. Many people are wary of, and less likely to connect with those who only network during a job hunt. By starting early, even while happily employed, those relationships will be readily available when you do need them. The longer you network, the more time you have to build stronger relationships. This can lead to new opportunities faster, and less urgency in between jobs.

3. You don’t offer help in return.

The concept of networking requires involvement from both parties. Brushing off requests for assistance / favors can lead to impressions of selfishness. And when the time arrives that you need the help, you might find yourself empty-handed. Instead, help when and where you can. Even if you don’t have the answers or skills requested by a colleague, at least try to point them in the direction that they need or help them brainstorm some creative solutions.

Networking doesn’t have to be as daunting as it can appear. Don’t forget that everyone starts somewhere. Start fine-tuning your networking skills today.