Whether at a summer work outing, family reunion, or BBQ with neighbors, the same rules apply as in any networking situation. Don’t pass up the opportunity to attend these types of social events, as you never know who you might meet – a new best friend or a business partner. Chances are, if you go with a good attitude and practice personal and professional etiquette, you will enjoy yourself and will have spent your time productively.
Management often does notice who attends work sponsored events, so attend when you can and show that you are a team player. Think of work events as networking opportunities to meet and build relationships with internal colleagues. Those colleagues could prove to be valuable resources in the future and be a source of work referrals, particularly in a professional services organization.
Before a work event, consider reviewing recent organizational press releases and other news within the organization. That type of information can be used as a conversation piece and demonstrate interest in your colleagues and the organization.
Communicate in a way that allows others to get to know you in a positive and memorable way. Work events provide a unique opportunity to show your people skills and show that you are a well rounded person. They can even present opportunities for job advancement in your organization. You never know - in the future your name could end up in a list of names for promotion consideration, and through a work event you may have met and made a positive impression on one of the decision makers before that time comes according to Richard J. DeAgazio, financial services industry executive and Principal of consulting firm Ironsides Associates.
Organizations typically spend a lot of time and money hosting summer events, and leadership wants you to enjoy yourself, but act professionally at all times. Keep in mind that, even if the event is somewhere very casual, you are still among work colleagues and must wear appropriate clothing and engage in work-appropriate conversation. Remember that your boss or his or her boss may be watching or listening to everything you say or do.
If the event invitation states you may bring a guest and you choose to do so, make sure you choose someone who will act appropriately, as your guest is a reflection on you. Also, while this may seem to be a given, be mindful of controlling alcohol intake and “Don’t act like the senior executives are your best buddies because of a couple of scotches,” said Richard J. DeAgazio.
During the event, managers and leaders should not just interact with their immediate circles. Instead, it is important to speak with employees at all levels. “Events present an opportunity to demonstrate you’re a real person and show appreciation and support for employees. Employees enjoy the opportunity to meet upper management, because they don’t always get the chance to do so otherwise” said DeAgazio.
During conversations with employees, organizational leaders may want to thank employees for helping to make the company a success. After all, every level and aspect of an organization affects an organization’s performance.
Employees should keep the conversation positive at all times. Work events are not a place to complain or gossip. Every company culture is different, so pay attention. If the culture is one where senior leadership is more the elitist type, don’t impose on their territory. If they are the mingling type, it is perfectly fine to approach them and say hello - they don’t want to be by themselves either.
In a more casual culture, consider inviting company leaders to sit at your table if there are open seats. Sometimes C-suite executives travel extensively or are so busy that they have fewer personal relationships with local colleagues and will appreciate being welcomed into a conversation.
Think of family events as a networking situation for business and social reasons but be genuine. Family events are not the place to ask for business. Instead, make connections on a personal level, and that may create openings for the future. Get to know others, follow up, and build lasting, mutually rewarding relationships.
Also, these days, “pictures, genealogy, and letters are no longer piling up in most attics and family history is no longer being passed on like it was in years past,” said DeAgazio. Use family events as an opportunity to learn family history and allow children to get to know their family members. DeAgazio suggested asking questions like “How was my father as a youngster?,” and “What is the funniest thing that happened in your youth?” Open ended questions provide valuable insight.
• Think before you speak. You may be meeting people for the first time, so filter what you say and how you say it.
• Ask, ask, ask about others as much as possible.
• Don’t be shy, and introduce yourself as much as possible – others are in the same the same situation as you and don’t know everyone in the room.
• Be a connector and introduce others.
• Consider turning your personality down a notch, especially with a mellow crowd - “you don’t want to be overpowering,” said DeAgazio.
• If there’s music, it is acceptable to dance – but keep it appropriate and in good taste.
• At family events, take lots of pictures - this preserves memories of the event, helps put names with faces later on, and can be an opportunity to follow up with someone in the future.
Enjoy yourself but stay mindful of the setting, and you should have a successful and enjoyable event where others will remember you in a positive way. This will create opportunities to build existing and new relationships, so don’t miss out on great summer networking prospects!
Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors (formerly the National Association of Women MBAs), serves as a Vice Chair of the City Year Women’s Leadership and Legal Community Breakfasts, and is a Boston World Partnerships Connector. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Richard J. DeAgazio is the former President of Boston Capital Securities, Inc., a FINRA-registered broker dealer and an affiliate of Boston Capital Corp. Recently retired, he formed Ironsides Associates to be a consulting firm specializing in networking and relationship development. He speaks regularly about networking and how to connect to people, in their personal and business lives. Richard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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