One tip that I give a lot of people planning to move to New York is that you need to network. Especially when it comes to finding a job, you need to meet people, put yourself out there, and really dive in head first (which I know, is not easy for everyone, so keep reading).
What I'm realizing too is that as Australians (and foreigners in general), we're a professionally shy bunch and we don't necessarily like tooting our own horn too loudly, so I thought I might offer some really introductory tips to networking in New York City.
These aren't perfect, but if you follow them, you should at least feel a little more comfortable at your next few events.
1. Where to meet people in New York
You'd think in a city this big that it would be easy to stumble across events and people all the time, but turns out it does require some work. They do exist, but they get lost due to how many different groups there really are.
Some great resources (if you've got some favorites, let me know)
- Meet & Connect – a new-comer to the market which prioritizes people first in a fast-paced business networking arena;
- MeetUp – the behemoth, you'll find something for everyone – some crap – some great;
- America Josh – I'm starting events, and I'd love you to let me know if you're interested (click here to tell me you are)!
2. How to present yourself at networking events
To put it simply, you're much better arriving over-dressed than under-dressed; always (realistically this applies to almost every single social interaction you'll ever have). If you arrive in shorts and a t-shirt, and everyone else is in suits, you're going to look ridiculous and most importantly you can't recover from it. If you arrive in a suit, and everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts, then you can have a laugh at how you over-shot the mark, take off your jacket, and roll up your sleeves (literally, or figuratively if your sleeves don't roll).
Think of it like a friendly job interview (“interview lite”) because you're basically attempting to make the same first impression, so business casual. As a man, you can't go wrong in slacks and a tucked-in button-down shirt, and for women, the range is slightly broader but something similarly neat and professional is perfect.
You don't need to power dress, you don't need bright colors, you don't need to worry about impressing anyone or getting attention, you just need to fit into the norm and feel comfortable doing that.
A note here: Every industry is completely different, so if you know for sure that everyone will be wearing suits, then dress it up a little. If you're 100% positive that it's more casual, then, by all means, fit in! If you're headed to clown networking, wear your finest red nose.
3. What to do when you get to an event
For most events, you want to arrive right on the time that they've suggested. Being “fashionably late” doesn't work for two reasons:
- It could be considered disrespectful to the host, especially if there are some formalities that they want to get out of the way early;
- If you're nervous and you arrive late, people have already started to group up and start chatting, so you're going to have a harder time breaking into these groups and start talking yourself.
If you arrive right on time, you'll normally find at least one or two other people who are standing awkwardly on their own who you can engage with.
The number one thing to remember is that you can be awkward. Nobody minds. Everyone is a little bit awkward at the beginning! Think of some fun short stories that are answers to your own questions (below) before you go in.
Keep in mind one thing: You're all here for the same reason, so it's not like you're walking up to someone randomly on the street!
Some ice-breakers and easy topics for New York are (starting at the very obvious):
- “Hi, I'm Josh (maybe use your name though), how are you?” (reaching out a hand to shake – firmly but not crushingly) – FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, ALWAYS!
- “How did you find out about this event?” – Do they know others here? Do they work here?
- “Have you been to this venue before?” – You might be able to talk about other events you've been to;
- “Where do you live in the city?” – Everyone loves talking about neighborhoods here;
- “What do you do?” – I hate this question, but it's necessary at business-y events;
- “How long have you been doing it?” – You might get to hear about what they've been doing before and after;
- “Do you have a big team in the city?” – You can build a bit of a story about this person;
- Avoid “Do you like your job?” style questions as it's a little bit personal but you may get there;
- “Are you a New Yorker, born and raised?” – This one is an easy way of basically finding out where someone is from and starts a conversation about their story moving to the city without asking awkward questions like “Where are you from?”;
Having a drink in your hand, even a glass of water is a nice way to not have to feel awkward about your hands and can give you something to do while you think of your next question without awkwardly looking around.
If there's alcohol on offer, by all means, have one to settle your nerves and fit in, but don't over-indulge and don't drink too fast. You might think you're great after three, but I promise you, you're not. Same goes for food, you might really like those extra creamy cakes, but you're going to look silly trying to eat it between conversations. (Pro-tip: Hold things in your left hand, it makes shaking hands easier when someone approaches you and means you don't have to awkwardly wipe down your hand after holding a cold glass or bottle which looks strange).
Speaking one-on-one is the most awkward thing you can do, so try and introduce more people to your little group. It's now your chance to be the hero of someone who didn't read this advice and rolled up a little bit late. If you see someone on their own, politely excuse yourself to the person you're talking to, don't wander too far away (so you don't lose #1), and reach out to the newcomer! Catch them up on what you've been talking about: “Hi I'm Josh (as above), Ben here was just telling me about how he loves farming beets”, and then give them a chance to introduce themselves.
You've now created a little group, AND you're the hero of it. Woo!
4. Rules for business cards at networking events
This one is in its own separate section because for the love of God, don't start with business cards.
Nobody. Ever. Likes. The. Person. Who. Starts. A. Conversation. With. A. Business. Card.
Put them away! Have them really easy to get in a pocket for the END of the conversation, and only if you've enjoyed the person's company or think you can engage with that person in the future (or if they've given one to you). Don't just hand them out to everyone. I don't know where we got this tradition of dishing them out by the hundreds, but it's utterly ridiculous.
Nice business cards are a great idea (especially now that you're not handing out hundreds of them) so get some of a decent quality and keep them simple with all of your contact details and a brand/logo. Having personal ones before you have a job is not a bad idea, so that you have something to hand out to prospective partners and/or employers.
Take the Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn logos off. Nobody needs that. It's 2018.
5. Follow-ups and re-connecting after events
From my experience, this part is incredibly different to what I was used to in Australia. You really should follow-up and remind the person you met who you are and ensure that they don't forget about you in a fog of delicious cheese platters.
If this person is going to be someone you can connect with, then give them the evening, and then send them an email in the morning of the next day. Give them a reason to remember you “Hi Ben, It was great to hear about your beet farming” and suggest that you catch up in the following week for a coffee about a particular topic. Don't just say “Let's catch up soon” because that never happens.
Hopefully that's given you some tips, and remember, if you're interested in attending some America Josh events, fill out your details below!!