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Job-search and career coaches always tout networking's importance. They implore clients to break away from their computers to engage in old-fashioned interactions with people who may be able to help them.
It's not so easy to master the art of juggling a plate and drink in one hand while gracefully delivering an on-target elevator pitch. And for introverted job-seekers who prefer one-on-one meetings or small group interactions, the idea of needing to "work a room" to meet an influential new contact may seem overwhelming.
But succeeding at in-person networking is not out of reach. Follow these 10 steps to ease awkwardness and emerge with terrific contacts:
1. Become a sleuth. Before attending in-person events, find out who else plans to attend. This is easier than ever if you received an online invitation.
Heading to a backyard barbecue? There's bound to be an e-invitation listing the guests and their RSVPs. Attending a professional event? Organizers likely used a social application to record responses and make them available to invitees. Manyevent organizers post their plans via LinkedIn's "Events" application. (Access it through LinkedIn's "More" tab, then navigate to "Applications" to add it to your profile.) Colleagues and potential mentors may have listed themselves as attending, which provides easy access to click through their profiles to learn about their backgrounds and interests.
2. Research several targets. It's not stalking; many make a habit of Googling people they expect to meet before an in-person encounter. It's commonplace to review LinkedIn profiles, Twitter streams, and even Facebook pages owned by potential networking contacts. Focus first on professional information: Learn where people attended school, where they worked, and spend time reviewing their professional bios, or LinkedIn summaries. Make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile in case anyone is researching you.
Look for some common personal touch points. Are there any common connections? Do they belong to public,...