How to Network When You’re on the Bottom of the Ladder

Today, reader A requests some advice on how to network…

I would really really appreciate if you guys did a post about how younger people can network and meet more experienced people in their field without stepping on any toes! I’m a intern at an NGO in DC and they have been great about bringing me to meetings, having me attend Congressional hearings, giving me things to do that are important and really useful experiences. Because of all of their help I am meeting a lot of people in my field, in fact the top people in their own fields. I really want to be able to network this summer while I’m here, not in the ‘give me a job’ networking, but rather picking their brains about where the best graduate programs are (I’m still undergrad) and how to go about getting into the field. If they offer a job so be it, but I don’t feel I have earned any handouts. My problem is, I don’t want to annoy or bother these people. I don’t want to give the impression that I want them to tell me all their hard-earned knowledge so I can breeze by. How would you want to be approached by a younger female intern who just wants to know anything you tell her? More importantly what would really peeve you? Any advice would be great!

Fabulous question, and reader A is a smart cookie for thinking about networking  now, while she’s clearly getting some fantastic opportunities (and doesn’t need anything from the networking other than advice, which everyone is happy to give). One of the things I always think about with regard to networking is Bob Woodward and Deep Throat. If you’re not familiar with the story,two Washington Post reporters had a source who they used to break the Nixon/Watergate scandal. The source — who they called “Deep Throat” — was anonymous and unknown for years and years.  In fact, people wondered if he existed at all, if he was a composite of multiple sources, etc, etc.  In 2005, Bob Woodward revealed who Deep Throat was — an FBI man named Mark Felt.  (Pictured above: A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being Deep Throat, and the Struggle for Honor in Washington, available at Amazon.) I was interested in the story (and the reveal) for a number of reasons, but personally one of the things I found most striking about Bob Woodward’s “reveal” in the Washington Post was his description of how he met Felt, just as he was finishing up his post-college tour in the Navy, and turned Felt into a member of his network.  It’s a must-read, but some choice quotes for you…

This was a time in my life of considerable anxiety, even consternation, about my future. . . . During that year in Washington, I expended a great deal of energy trying to find things or people who were interesting. . . . When I mentioned the graduate work to Felt, he perked up immediately . . . . So we had two connections — graduate work at GW and work with elected representatives from our home states.

Felt and I were like two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time. He showed no interest in striking up a long conversation, but I was intent on it. . . . As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter — one of the most important in my life — I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn’t saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counseling session.

All of this is a fairly long-winded way of saying: a) networking is done by everyone — especially, perhaps, the people who become the greats, b) networking is always awkward and takes some work, and c) men struggle with this too — this is not something unique to women.  That said, here are a few “How to Network” observations I’ve made over my years trying to network:
- A connection helps you get on a VIP’s calendar. Woodward talks about his two connections — an alumni one and a shared experience — but it can be a person, an entity (a former employer), a place (he’s your next door neighbor), anything.  A friend in common counts buckets towards getting on someone’s calendar, even if you barely know the shared connection. One of the things I’ve always done is, upon having lunch or breakfast with someone Important For Networking, I’ve asked who else I should talk to — and when they rattle of their list of 4 or 5 of their closest friends, I ask, “If I contact them, may I tell them you suggested I speak with them?” and the answer is almost always yes. (In the age of Linked In and Facebook, I would still recommend asking your friends directly before trying to jump over them to connect with someone.) I’ve also found that it’s better to ask for a meeting over “breakfast or lunch” because frequently, for busy people, breakfast is the only time that isn’t 100% scheduled. Breakfast is great for other reasons, too — it shows you’re a go-getter (early bird gets the worm!), it allows you to choose some non-posh place for lunch (I’m not just trying to get a free lunch out of this!), and it allows you to graciously  offer to take the check.  Most VIPs will not let an intern pay for them, but I’ve always felt it important to offer (and to be sincere about the offer).

- If it’s someone really important — say, the CEO of the company where you’re interning, or a senator — try to make it worth their time by setting up a group lunch. If it’s an alumni connection, bring a few other alumni to lunch with you. Note to the competitive overachievers among us: if you go this route, make sure that a) you’re the only one the VIP ever deals with directly, and b) perhaps even go so far as to make sure that you’re the most impressive person / most inquisitive person / best prepared person at lunch.  (If you feel awkward asking an older man out to breakfast or lunch and worry about sexual overtones, bring along a male colleague or two.)

- When you get the time with them: Ask them about themselves! Everyone loves to talk about themselves. A little prep work helps in knowing what questions to ask, but in general let them tell their war stories and tout their achievements.  When they get into decisions they made — where they went for grad school, or which job they took when they graduated — ask them follow-up questions that are useful to you, such as where they would go if they were choosing now, or how that job led to other opportunities. The conversation should probably be 90% about them, and 10% direct questions about you. Note that this is not an exercise in placating someone else’s narcissism, but about truly learning one person’s path to success. Your path will be different — everyone’s is — but it’s helpful to see the steps that someone else took and the choices they made.  If you can in the conversation, fit in an accomplishment or two of your own, but these should be brief quips, not minutes-long stories.

- After the meeting, write down everything they said. I save them as notes on my Palm Pilot’s calendar (yes, I know, I am ancient) or contact card for that person, but you should do whatever works for you. I tend to memorialize the following kinds of information:
- their path to success (even if it’s just a diagram showing [undergrad college] –> [grad school because X] –> [first job because Y] (and so on)
- personal things they told you — if they told a long story about their son’s acceptance to college, you don’t want to look blankfaced at the next meeting when they mention a son. (In fact, it’s better to follow up and ask how he’s doing when you next see them.)
- topics and things that person is interested in.

- Send a thank you note — and be specific about a story you were fascinated by, or advice you particularly appreciate.  If you can, reinforce one or two choice things about yourself — I always imagine that the VIP is terribly busy and can barely remember what they HAD for lunch, let alone who they met, so I would say things like “As I apply to grad school in ___ in the fall, I’ll be thinking of your advice,” or if there was some non-smarmy opportunity to do it, I’d reference my own accomplishments.  (Finding a non-smarmy way is the key, though.)

Getting the first meeting is the easy part of networking, though – it’s the second meeting (and the third, and… ) that is where the real art comes.  My technique has always been to send newspaper articles on a shared topic of interest.  It’s best if it’s’ something off the beaten path that the VIP probably would not have seen — you’re really providing them a service then, as well as showing that you’re engaged on this topic deeply.  Don’t worry if they don’t write back.  Maintain the relationship in this casual “Saw this and thought of you” manner until you are in need of different advice — next step advice — and then try to get on their calendar again for lunch.

Some final advice: networking is about making friends.  Friends help friends.  Genuinely be interested in their story, and in remembering their personal issues.

Anyway, that’s my $.02 on networking — readers, share your own networking thoughts and advice!

Comments

  1. I need some advice on networking too, but mine is a little different. I am a senior associate and I need to figure out how to meet clients – basically high net worth people who need estate planning. Where do rich people hang out? :)

    Networking has been most helpful to me in moving between jobs – friends of friends and people who used to work at whatever place I was moving from. Otherwise, though, I don’t really want to network with other people in my field. I need clients! Any advice from more senior people out there?

    • When I was in public accounting (a firm with a large high net worth tax practice) one strategy a manager angling for partnership used to get her clients was to join the posh gym in the area that catered to higher net worth clients and network between classes – yes expensive, but she saw it as an investment in her future (which paid off), another attended alumni/ae events for her business school. To be trusted by high net worth individuals, the lesson learned is that you have to be able to pass as one of them.

      • Agree with joining the gym and using your school network. Just pick one or two of these kinds of activities though because the key is that these are long-term strategies that will require you to do lots of legwork and prove yourself before you get people coming to you or wanting to accept your invitation to be their lawyer. Shayna is right that trust is everything and trust takes time to build. You can also build trust with other lawyers who have built trust with your future clients and then can pass them on to you.

        You should do the same by the way, send other lawyers clients, and even send people who you might think are your clients to other lawyers (probably at your firm, but definitely to someone GOOD first of all). When that person needs a lawyer with your field of expertise, they’re more likely to come to you.

        • Definitely reciprocate — but it’s hard to do that when you’re at the bottom, so I tend to think of that as a tactic for those a bit further in their career – but if you have the chance to refer someone, do it!

          • Ms. Raygun :

            Excellent question…I have had to confront it a few times in my own career. Here are some things I have come up with.

            Join the Chamber of Commerce association that is most relevant to your prospective clients, and attend social and networking functions. If you travel frequently, join private travel clubs or lounges. These have the benefit of being social environments where people congregate while they are traveling for work, and you can meet interesting and well-traveled folks this way. Join your University alumni association and attend functions. You could even volunteer to write blurbs or current events articles for the alumni magazine, to get more exposure for your name. If your city has and Ivy Club, ladies’ dinner club, or university members’ club, consider dining there a few times a month on weekend nights. Attend free evening lectures at a local university. Finally, don’t overlook the power of a personal blog, where you can write about your working life.

            I hope this helps!

    • I’m just a newbie lawyer, but I had a prior career that required me to network a ton. Contrary to what you think you DO want to network with people in your field! It’s exactly those folks who will send you business! Whether it’s because they’re conflicted out or they don’t have capacity to handle that client or what not, lawyers are the number one referral to other lawyers. Seriously. Plus lawyers would be wealthy people needing estate advice! At least partners would be, and some senior associates as well. So yeah, network with lawyers. :)

      I think that’s going to be your best answer, but secondary to that, you want to join non-profit boards, philanthropic boards for some cause you care about (you will have to do some work for them), put your kids in private schools (if you have kids), and join a nice country club (where someone can introduce you to people). But other lawyers will get you business much faster than doing any of those things.

      • Thanks. In my experience with the estate planning lawyers’ groups here, they are not going to send me clients. They want to keep those people as clients themselves. I haven’t gotten any referrals from other lawyers, at all.

        Private schools and country clubs – I don’t have money to do that. I am on one non-profit board already. What about the fancy church near me?

        • As someone who has done a lot of networking and had incredible results throughout my 20+ year career, I can only say: Volunteer! Serving on one not for profit board is great, but how many board committees are you working on? What other volunteer opportunities are out there? Everyone chairing a major benefit dinner, auction, etc., will be thrilled to have help. One of my best volunteer activities involved co-ordinating the corporate donations for a large benefit luncheon: sending letter to heads of corporations, following up with phone calls, and stopping by to pick up checks. What a great way to meet the movers and shakers in your city. Also, those chairing fundraising committees tend to be movers and shakers themselves, or else married to the movers and shakers.

        • A-n0n-lawyer :

          I would say no to the church unless you truly believe what they preach. Just going to a house of worship to find clients feels really icky to me.

        • Sorry I should’ve clarified. I understand why estate planning lawyers wouldn’t work, but I meant other types of lawyers. Join the Women’s Bar Association, the local city bar association or whatever bar association is most active in your area. In-house lawyers in particular would have access to HNW individuals, so seek to meet those guys. Also, make sure you’re in touch your law school classmates and attend alumni events.

    • Chicago K :

      Benefit dinners, or other charitable events (silent auctions, etc). Choose a cause you have an interest in and buy a plate at their next dinner or attend their next event. Lots of people attend those to network, so conversation will be easy flowing and there is guarenteed to be a lot of HNW prospects there.

    • No tips here, but I thought the email address you set up over on the Juggle was creative. :-) So much crossover!

    • A-n0n-lawyer :

      If you’re into physical activity, a lot of the wealthier people in my area really like bicycling. It’s a sport where you can spend A LOT of money on toys and gadgets. There are also tons of attorneys in our cycling community (who are also often wealthy or a source of referrals).

      I don’t know if that is true everywhere, though.

    • If you’re under a certain age there are often discounted memberships to fancy charity organizations or other members-only type things. One of my bosses when I was young took me to breakfast at the Rainbow Room and told me with glee how it was only a $250/year membership because she was under 35, whereas older folks pay more than $1000 for membership. A lot of museums have a similar program — for example, one of the museums near me has a “$1000 per person per year” membership that will be $350/yr if you’re under 35.

      If you get an opportunity with any small groups, you might also want to try to put together a free seminar or something on estate planning. E.g., you know one wealthy older woman — ask her if you could talk to some of her friends at an afternoon tea or something about estate planning. You could also try a “loyalty” program — if an existing client refers you new business, you give some incentive to that client.

    • Join the Junior League. It sounds like a joke, but I’m serious. Also, get involved with your local alumni club. If you profess a faith, you could pick your place of worship based on the demographic of its attendees, but I would not advise you to exaggerate or fake religious belief in order to meet people – you’d likely end up offending your potential clients somehow.

      • Oh, also, consider joining Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, whatever other business associations there are in your city.

    • Sadly, the best way to get to know high worth individuals is probably to be a high worth individual. Barring that, do what the high worth folks do; go to society functions, work for philanthropic organizations, be involved in your church, frequent the high-end social clubs (often called “Beach Club” or “Yacht Club” or “[City] Athletic Club”), and play golf and tennis. Offer to provide free legal advice to the private schools if you can’t afford to send kids there; if you attend the Board of Directors meetings as legal counsel, you’ll meet the directors, who may be in need of some financial advice.

    • Bridge player :

      If you have any interest in intellectual games, you might consider taking up bridge. A lot of older folks play it (and many of them are wealthy), and if you get involved in your local club by taking lessons or helping out at tournaments you could get to know them. Bridge is a somewhat expensive hobby because entry fees can be $10-30 per session, but it gives you a built-in “speed dating” aspect – as you play the game, you move around the room and play against everyone. Many bridge players play every single week, too, so you can really get to know a few people (which I find an easier way to network than meeting a lot of different people for five minutes). If you have any interest, go to http://www.acbl.org and find the clubs in your area, then call to see whether they are offering lessons.

      It also happens to be great mental exercise, and fun!

  2. In my intern-who-knows-no-one-and-nothing days I networked by attending chamber of commerce events, asking open ended questions (yes, people do love to talk about themselves!) – like “how did you end up doing this” …nothing hard or on the spot.

    Try meeting for coffee since it’s a flexible time frame, and incredibly cheap

  3. A-n0n-lawyer :

    I have the hardest time with the aftermath and staying in touch. Sometimes I feel awkward forwarding articles and such. And a “just to say hi” email feels weird. Any other tips for that aspect?

  4. Legally Brunette :

    I had a recent networking experience on what NOT to do. A recent law graduate who is unemployed contacted me asking me for advice on how to obtain a job in this tough legal market. I told her that I would be happy to talk to her. She was perfectly nice and appreciative, but she seemed so clueless about the job hunting process that it really startled me. For example, I asked her if she had contacted any alumni or if she had thought about applying for clerkships or fellowships to tide her over for a few years. She was like, “Oh, that’s a great idea!”. Huh? You’ve been without a job for over a year and haven’t thought to contact any of your alumni?? I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she really undermined her own credibility.

    • LegallyBlonde :

      Maybe, since she was younger, she didn’t want to be negative and say she had already tried that? Oftentimes, when I don’t know what to say, I will say something like “good idea” or “interesting concept” or something.

      • Legally Brunette :

        Nope, I pointedly asked her if she contacted any alumni for informational interviews and she said that she had not.

        • Contacting alumni (or any other stranger) is daunting.
          I think that there are some people for whom networking comes naturally, and others who dread it like a root canal.
          I am in the later camp. I wouldn’t be that surprised to hear that this person didn’t contact alumni for informational interviews. It’s hard! Don’t hold it against her — she contacted you . . . :)

        • Ex-3L Sarah :

          In all fairness, I don’t know if I would contact many more alumni than I already have. I went to a Small Independent Law School that got bought by Giant University. The numerous alumni from Small Independent School (almost) won’t have anything to do with us because of Giant’s subsequent actions. Giant’s numerous alumni (still) don’t realize the school now has a law school, and want to talk about the good ‘ol days in Giant State’s college town, which is NOT where the law school is. It’s rough when a job depends on how long you waited in line through the rain and sleet for season tickets to the student section at the football stadium…and you didn’t because you hate football.

          That’s not to say that the girl shouldn’t have at least done some minor research and figured out what was going on before she sat down with you, though.

    • I had this experience too. I work in a very specialized area of law and agreed to talk to a new grad friend of a friend of a friend who wants to get into the field and is currently unemployed. Grad hadn’t even googled me, as became apparent when she asked how I got into this field in City X (I live and practice in City Y, which is far, far away from City X). Then she asked me how I feel about representing Big Bad Companies that do Big Bad Things, and wasn’t that awfully hard?

      Which only made me wonder if she had ANY idea about what it means to be a lawyer. And how she thought law firms generally paid the bills.

      • Yup, I am also in a specialized field that involves advising large companies, and met with a soon-to-be grad who claimed he was interested in the field, wanted to be part of the transactions, needed the paycheck to support his stay at home wife and children, and then said he was really interested in finding a government job and asked if I thought he would get similar pay. I chalked it up to overly optimistic expectations and didn’t bother following up with him later; I already knew he was going to be disappointed.

      • Such a nuanced view of things!

        Not all companies are guilty of everything they’re sued for, dear Grad :).

        • On top of it all, I’m not even a litigator, so I don’t actually defend anyone–I basically do a specialized type of project finance. So I’m also unsure if she actually understood the difference between litigation and transactional work. OY.

  5. Kat, is there a way to exchange contact information with the questioner?

    • at the moment there isn’t — I’m trying to have my tech guy work on a site improvement that would be like weddingbee.com, where you can email other posters directly (and have forums) but that’s proving problematic. In the past, I have connected some commenters who both wrote to me and requested I introduce them, but from a liability perspective I’m really uncomfortable doing that and have stopped doing that. Sorry about that — e-mail me if you’d like to discuss further.

      • Perhaps a Corporette DC meetup is in order?

        I’d like to give more specific advice to the questioner but I don’t feel comfortable doing so publicly and I don’t really want to post my email address here either.

        • Oooh yes! Corporette DC meetup for sure.

          • Jealous! Not many NJ Corporettes apparently :-(

          • I know — one of the things I want to do is a Corporette DC meetup, but my first chance to get down there will probably be in September. I’m even lazier for not arranging the NYC meetup — I live here!

          • Kat pretty please do NYC — that’s only a hr train ride from me (vs. DC which is at least two and requires a $150 amtrak ride!)

        • Hi! I’m the original questioner, thanks so much for the advice below. I read Spotted: DC Interns often, and find some of it hilarious and some of it ridiculous. I am trying to be very careful about what I wear, but because most of the people I am trying to network with are in environmental NGOs (except for Congressional hearings of course) dress is very relaxed.
          As for the business cards I thought about it (I read some of the stories on Spotted about interns making their own cards and being pompous about it), but I wasn’t sure if it would come off as far too, I don’t know, odd. But after this I might make a few.
          I’m not 100% comfortable putting my email on this either, but Kat has my email so maybe there is some way for her to give it to you? If that is a possibility Kat then I am all for it.
          Thanks!

          • I don’t think there is anything wrong with making your own business cards if you are an intern. Just keep them simple (so, maybe not NGO Enthusiast/Bad *ss MC). Name, contact information, done.

          • I probably would’ve laughed at a classmate with business cards when I was in law school, but now that I’m a practicing lawyer, I realize how powerful business cards are. Business cards make you permanent; many VIPs give their assistant a stack of business cards every month and put them into a physical or virtual Rolodex. Business cards are also much more convenient and professional than, say, smudging your name and e-mail on a napkin.
            I’ve gotten business cards from law students, and from my end, I was grateful they had them and certainly didn’t feel like it was arrogant. Keep it simple, elegant, and make sure the information is somewhat permanent – an e-mail address that you’ll keep for a while, and a phone number that won’t change when you graduate or leave the state.

          • Hi Alice, I agree with Emily above. I felt snarky toward students who had cards when I was a student. Now that I’m an attorney, I realize that those students were smarter than me. Live and learn.

            At least in DC people always trade business cards, save them, and keep track of the contact info, often with a note on where they met the person. Having a card to hand out will make the difference in whether your potential networking contact will remember you or not. Have a some simple ones printed up – you can get them for free on VistaPrint.com.

          • Business cards are a must these days. I do alumni events through career services at my undergrad college, and I tell students get some cheap, simple business cards. There’s nothing more awkward than meeting someone at an event and having to say “Oh, let me find a piece of paper so you can write down your contact information.”

            Another place that’s been mentioned to me for finding clients is the Junior League. I haven’t joined yet, but a friend of mine has been very successful getting clients for her estate planning business.

          • Two tips for cheap student business cards:
            (1) Talk to you student affairs office. I don’t know about all schools or undergrads, but my lawschool would print you up a sizeable set of business cards with your name, the school emblem, your anticipated grad date for a nominal charge.
            (2) http://www.vistaprint.com You can design some very basic, professional looking cards for dirt cheap. I actually had some made from this site after graduation and during my post-grad job hunt with my name and contact info, undergrad and law school names, and grad dates.

      • Ooh. How about a Corporette LinkedIn group?

        • Check out TheGlassHammer.com – they have a Ning network set up for women in business — it’s not huge but it is growing :-)

        • I’d join that!

        • Chicago K :

          I would definately join a linked n group – great idea!

        • Interesting re: LinkedIn — let me think about whether I want to do that from a business perspective. I still think a hosted forum on this site is the best solution.

        • I would totally join! Just remember though that we would stop being anonymous on LinkedIn.

        • RE: business cards for those without a professional one. VistaPrint.com will make you almost perfectly professional ones for free! I say “almost” because it costs $3.95 to get a blank back side (rather than the Vista Print logo). Choose one of the designs that is not on their front page (and thus instantly recognizable as a free Vista Print card) and you are good to go.

          I have some with my personal (home) contact information for times when I want to exchange info for non-work purposes – fellow moms to arrange playdates, etc. This is also good if you are job hunting and want to be sure prospective employers have a way to contact you without contacting you at your current work.

    • Chicago K :

      Just a suggestion, but you could always set up a new free email account on yahoo/hotmail/gmail and then post the address here. The other person could grab it and email you and then you could 1) exchange your real info and never check the temp addresses again or 2) answer questions via the new email address, remaining a bit anonoymous yet open to spam from anyone else who picks it up from this site. I suppose there is a risk that any of us could pick up the new email address and send you an email even though we are not the OP. But well, the internet is always full of risk that we aren’t who we say we are. Just an idea…

  6. My general advice:

    - Get in touch with alumni, both alumni close to your age in jobs you’d like to obtain in the first 5 or so years of your career but also high-powered alumni like ambassadors, law firm partners, congressmen, etc. The way to meet these people is by attending alumni events in the city where you want to work. Just introduce yourself, give them a card with your contact info, they’ll almost always reciprocate with their card, and then send them a follow-up email saying it was nice to meet them and asking if they’d like to have coffee. I’m always surprised by how many high-powered types I meet at alumni events, and how uniformly gracious they are and how pleased they are to meet younger alumni. The worst that can happen is they’ll ignore your email, but honestly, they wouldn’t be attending alumni events if they weren’t the kind and helpful type.

    - Exchange cards and send follow-up emails to people you meet at the events you go to for your internship. You’re less likely to get responses this way, but you’ll get a few. During the school year, if you’re working on a paper or something and one of the contacts you made works in the field you’re researching, reach out to them for research suggestions or ask to interview them.

    - I guess it’s obvious from the above but get cards made with your name and contact info. If you pull out a card, the person you’ve just met will almost always give you hers, and then you’ve made a new contact. If you don’t have a card, she might not think to pull hers out. You need to take the initiative on networking.

    - Try to establish close professional relationships with one or two women about ten years older than you who can serve as mentors. Stay in touch with them and ask them for advice.

    - Finally, watch what you wear. See, e.g.: http://dcinterns.blogspot.com/2010/06/heard-psa-to-ladies.html.

    • Wow, the PSA got a lot of comments!

      • I just read them – hadn’t read them when the poster commented here a few weeks ago. It’s funny that all the interns commenting seem to be outraged and all the professionals commenting seem to agree with the post.

        • I think a lot of the snarkiness from the interns comes from age. Live and learn. I think back to what I wore in that situation and I’m horrified. Some will take the advice. Others will have to learn the hard way. I worked with a female attorney who wore red jeans to the office telling the boss they were red pants. That didn’t go over well in our professional office.

          • I think a lot of interns aren’t so much snarky as they are irritated by the fact that so-called “professionals” make snarky comments about them. Yes, some interns dress poorly, but most of us do what we can with the budget we have. Stop acting like all “young people” have poor judgment- it’s condescending and insulting.

  7. Great post, thanks!

  8. Alice - Questioner :

    Thanks for all the advice Kat and others. I am now going to give serious thought to making some cards with my school, degree, email, and phone number.
    The big hitch in all of this is alumni connections. I go to school in the UK and while there is a small contingent of alumni in the DC area, the alumni network is nothing like what you would get from American schools of the same caliber. However I’ve found mentioning I’m in school abroad provokes stories from the people I meet about travelling for work, etc. I guess I gotta work with what I’ve got!
    Thanks again everyone, I’m excited to put all of this to good use!

    • In this case, try to go to events for UK citizens hosted by the British Embassy. There’s probably an events email list – the French Embassy has one. And if you have American friends who go to events for their schools, just crash those events and introduce yourself as a friend of so-and-so. Can’t hurt.

  9. I’m in a city of about half a million. One time the Mayor came to speak at a luncheon for young lawyers, and he told us that there were tons of various boards and commissions for the city government, and that he appointed the people that served on them. He said they really had a hard time finding people to do it, because it was a ton of boring work, and no glory. (The Mayor seemed to be saying that he couldn’t even find political allies/friends/lackies to fill all the spots.) A male friend of mine later contacted his office, and ended up on a committee of the local Planning Board. He basically met every big-shot developer in town through that committee.

    I’m not sure I could have pulled that off (and it probably won’t work in DC), but getting involved in local government is certainly a way to meet VIPs in your city.

    The rest of the advice on this post has been great, too. Thanks for posting this question, and the wonderful tips.

    Oh, and Rotary. Lots of the movers and shakers in my region are in that. (Or Lions, or whatever is big in your town.)

    • FinanceGal :

      I second this recommendation. I started volunteering with a large non-profit in my former city, whose board of directors was full of names most ladies on here would recognize. After a few events in which I participated heavily the CEO of the foundation asked if I would consider serving on the community board of the foundation (separate from the big dog board, but with many overlapping events/meetings). He passed my name to the city mayor, who then appointed me to that board. The networking opportunities were incredible!

      I later found out that the mayor’s office is constantly in need of names to consider for this type of thing, and as many of the city-related boards have to report demographic information they’re thrilled to get younger females into appointments!

  10. I have a book recommendation: Basic Black by Cathie Black. I found it a very interesting memoir with solid tips on networking and how Cathie Black made it in business.

    I agree that joining the Junior League is a good option. It would be cheaper than a country club, but it’s still a club. Another option would be the young benefactors/professionals group of a museum or arts center. The regular contact that membership in a club or group provides makes networking much easier.

    Also, if you’re meeting someone for advice and the set location is her office, why not e-mail her beforehand to say you’re stopping by Starbucks — what’s her favorite coffee drink? It’s a nice gesture of appreciation and civility.

  11. How about tips on actual “help me find a job” networking…are they different than the reader’s email request?

    Also, I wanted to share the following article with you fellow Corporettes:
    For Women, Can Too Much Ambition Be Toxic?: http://blogs.bnet.com/entry-level/?p=2677&tag=nl.e713

    • I’d love tips too. I’m having a hard time striking a balance between upbeat! sure I’ll find a job someday! excited about your field! and reality, which is thanks for suggesting x, y, and z, but over the last year I’ve already done that. And failed.

      • I had a hard time with this too when I was networking – I ended up responding with something like, “I tried that x months ago, but I should try again. Do you have any tips on how to make it more effective this time?”

  12. Business card question: I have cards with all of my school information. However, at my current internship, this information is pretty much irrelevant – I don’t have access to that phone or e-mail during the day, so it seems pointless to hand out contact information that won’t actually work in a timely manner. Should I be giving out cards anyway?

    • yeah, it’s fine so long as you check the voicemail/email a few times a week. No one expects an instant response to a professional message.

    • As long as you’re checking it once a day (or at the very least once every other day), it shouldn’t be a problem. No one’s going to expect an instantaneous response.

  13. Great list… One missing though is to “pay it forward!” If you are reached out to now, or even more in the future as you move up, help people as you were helped. This is the core ethos of real networking: the genuine desire to be of service to one another.

    • I agree, and I’ve met with a few people to do coffee or lunch. I always feel guilty though; I’m pretty low on the totem pole at my firm, and I’m probably not going to be able to help anyone find a job. The best I can offer is information. Any ideas on how I can provide more bang for the buck in these situation?

  14. Networking can be hard in the beginning when you don’t have much to offer- everyone should develop their own style over time.

    The ‘usual’ haunts don’t always work, either. Sad example: 8 yrs ago I was unemployed in NYC being out of law school for a year or two (quit nightmare job). Hiring in law was bad then too. Went to an alumni event (2nd tier school) and every person there was either looking for clients or work or depressed lawyers. One lady I talked to said she hated her 20-year career in ERISA and was miserable, but wouldn’t do anything else at this point. Lame and pointless event! Ultimately I got a job through my husband’s former boss when he moved to a new employer. He was a big jerk and it was a pretty dead end job, but I made the most of it, developed useful skills, worked hard. And later got out of NYC to the west coast.

    Now I’m on the other end- in my dream job in a large company. People constantly seek my advice and pitch me for business. Usually when they send the articles (common, obvious technique) they are not useful, because the people have such a cursory understanding of my work, but I don’t mind much. Most people I simply can’t help if I wanted to as it’s just not within my scope. The hardest are friends or business contacts who I like and have helped me in the past- it is hard to tell them no, but I am not in charge of the big huge company’s hiring, budgets and contracting! The WORST is when friends pass along my info directly to others without asking me first. I have gotten 3 this month: one for an education nonprofit wanting money, one for consulting business, one from a supplier wanting more business with my company. All people I can’t help. I just tell them that and occasionally refer them to someone else.
    I spoke to a group of business graduate students last week and after the substantive talk they asked about what to do when looking for work right now. I told them it’s okay not to get your dream job first- just work hard, develop skills, and keep up with whatever your passion is on the side. I wanted to say you aren’t entitled to waltz into fabulous international strategy work- took me 12 years of dues to get there- but that seemed too rude. I told them to develop useful speaking and writing skills, and a broad perspective that can connect dots. After they left, I wish I’d hammered on hard work and professionalism- they all seemed underdressed and way too informal in behavior- wandering the halls of the CEO floor loudly rather than following me politely to the conference room, chatting with each other when I started talking, asking questions that I’d already answered (at least 3 times!), dressing like they were not at a large global company they wanted jobs at. On reflection this seemed to be the biggest problem- I wouldn’t trust any of them to represent the company to outsiders. I wouldn’t hire entry level anyway, but was a bit surprised at their lack of self awareness. I’m pretty sure I was the same was back then- how embarassing. Anyway, point is that they did NOT do a good job of networking because they turned me off from their appearance/behavior right away. I am extremely busy (this is my one dalliance today, usually don’t have time for lunch break, etc.) but will make time to chat with people that impress me or seem genuine, even if there’s no obvious benefit to me. None of the students asked, either- wonder how they will network into positions as panicked as they all looked.

    For my own networking, luckily I get it through work now as I interact with tons of groups I want to be connected to. But, I’m also thinking of starting a women’s breakfast group- small, 10 or less, all in same general area but different ages, employers, etc. to do so twice yearly or so. No more, too busy. Idea is to mimic these old guy’s clubs you hear about where they became friends and billionaires over the decades by vetting each others’ problems and sharing wisdom. I have two others in mind. Has anyone else started something like this? If so, tips?

  15. Fantastic article! I struggle with networking as well. Networking is crucial in my business, and I constantly work on how to connect with people.

    I find that it’s important that you give back. Whether I give them free products or spa services, or maybe help them make a connection to someone I know. It shows that you’re a helpful, thoughtful person, something I strive to be every day in my personal as well as business life.

  16. Any suggestions on what to do when you send a “cold” email to someone in a position/department you want to be in with no response?
    Do you let it go? Follow-up after a certain amount of time? If you try again, what would you say?

  17. I would let it go. Some people really are just to busy and/or have other priorities. Try to find someone to introduce you personally- but even then sometimes people don’t respond. Just keep plugging away at all possibilities!

  18. Good insight on networking. Thanks for the information! I recently posted the “11 Rules for Networking”: http://wp.me/pObyU-A. If you have a moment, please check it out. I’d love to know what you think!

    Keep up the great work!

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