I realized recently that we haven’t talked in FAR too long about networking — so with tons of holiday parties and other company events coming up, now seems like a great time to discuss. What are your THREE best networking tips — and where did they come from? (Did you learn them the hard way, read them somewhere, or have them passed down by a sage mentor?) These are my best networking tips, but I’d love to hear yours…
1. Don’t Just Think About Networking UP
Networking is about a lot more than just getting to be buddy-buddy with the boss. You should view your colleagues, subordinates, competitors and more all as being part of your network. Your fellow students, teachers, and adjuncts, too! I’ve always been amazed at people who seem to drop old colleagues the second they leave for a new job.
2. Networking Tip #2: Don’t Just Look For People Who Can Offer You Jobs (And Don’t Only Network When You’re Looking For a New Job)
Networking is about a lot more than just looking for a new job or opportunity — and a HUGE mistake is people who ONLY pay attention to their network when they need something. On a meta level I suppose you are looking for mentors, sponsors, and other people who you can learn from (or even just people who always know the best resources and PLACES to learn, like that colleague who’s always just come back from that amazing seminar or conference you never even heard of). But on a macro level you’re looking for friends and interesting people along a similar career journey. (Or, as someone who’s changed her career in a major way, I’ve written in the past about how people with similar skillsets and backgrounds are great to keep in your network to see where they go and what they do with those shared skills, background and experience.)
3. Finally: Don’t Be Afraid to Network (But Don’t Be Entitled)
There was that cringe-worthy video earlier this year of a certain famous daughter trying to schmooze with world leaders, with the world leaders ignoring what she said, talking past her, and all but rolling their eyes. I don’t know about you, but a fun part of my imposter syndrome has always been the fear that this is the response I’d get if I tried to network with people I truly admired. But that has not been the case — I’ve made friends with a lot of people who I was blown away even to be talking to, and managed to make them part of my network. (Perhaps as part of my imposter syndrome, I credit being very prepared (either naturally or otherwise) with these networking successes.) But, just like that video of the daughter trying and failing to schmooze, I know readers have shared story after story of The Intern Who Thought He Knew Everything and Wouldn’t Shut Up. So… don’t be that entitled person.
Readers, what are your best networking tips? How has your approach to networking changed over the years — and what were some of the biggest networking mistakes you (or others) made along the way?
- The Secrets of Successful Female Networkers [Harvard Business Review]
- Five Networking Tips from Three Great Women [Upward]
- LinkedIn’s Top Networking Tips for Women [The Undercover Recruiter]
- Networking — The Most Important Thing Women Should Do For Their Career — But Aren’t [Entrepreneur]
No advice, but as someone who works in IT networking I love the image choice ;)
1. Have your elevator speech prepared.
2. Have a go-to question that you ask. I often just ask ‘So, what do you do when you’re not showing up at Tuesday night networking events.’ You get some fascinating answers! For example, I once asked that to someone who is incredibly accomplished in their field and he surprised me with talking about the awesome cooking classes he’d been taking and his true passion for making delicious food (something absolutely unrelated to his work). I now have this awesome connection and he remembers me specifically for our discussion on making ceviche.
3. Bring a pen and something to write on (business cards, small note pad, etc.). Trade info and write a note on your business card.
1. As someone who is very shy and has a hard time with a lot of classic networking situations, know your strengths and play to them. I feel more comfortable in small groups and one-on-one settings, so I do a lot of lunches or meeting up for a drink, and that’s worked well for me.
2. Networking isn’t just about you. I love finding ways to help out my connections, make introductions, etc. And it’s that kind of genuine interest that creates the bonds that will truly be helpful when you need to rely on those connections yourself.
3. Following up and working to maintain your connections is more important than the initial meet-up, exchanging cards, etc. See 1 and 2 for tips on how to do it.
1. Get there early. There are fewer people there and it is easier to join a group or walk up to someone. It is SO counter intuitive to what we want to do when we’re nervous, but I swear it helps.
2. Go with the intention not of networking, but of seeing if you can make a new friend. It is so much more relaxed!
3. Keep practicing. Networking was once my worst nightmare, but I kept showing up, offered to help out in some of the organizations I am in, and somehow 5 years later, I am the President of my affinity bar section and always know a couple of people at any event I go to.
Earlier in my career (about 7 years in), I was worried that my youth would be looked at negatively because of my lack of real world experience. I would think, “Who would hire me with limited experience?” I went to lunch with 2 female mentors who suggested I look at things differently. They said that instead of thinking of my youth as a negative, I should look at my youth as a benefit to clients who are older because that meant I would always be there for them when they are in need. That way they won’t have to find someone new when their professional retires since presumably I will not retire during their lifetimes.
Always take the time to thank someone for sending you a referral.
Ask a lot of questions. Be genuinely interested in the answers.
Great ideas. And you looking young is a benefit now, and should help you out for years to come. I applaud you for your intuitive ideas. If you have a boyfriend, make sure he appreciates what you bring to the table and do not subjugate yourself to him and his whims. I made that mistake once with my ex, but will not repeat this if I ever get another boyfriend.
I did a speech about this at a local conference. I sort of do this professionally. My favorite books about this are The Art of People and Captivate. Both look at networking in a studied, scientific way.
My tips are 1. The best place to stand at these events is in the area after you get food/drink but not blocking the line. Folks sometimes try to talk at the entrance and that’s not a good spot. 2. Try to ask something beyond small talk. For non work things I tend to ask about vacations. For work related I ask them if they are working on any passion projects or whats the most exciting thing they are working on. I know many of you are attorneys so perhaps asking something else. I’ve asked if they’ve ever met a celebrity…it’s a bit different and one I find interesting. 3. I make sure I know what color eyes they have, to make sure I’m giving enough eye contact. It’s silly but since I’m petite I often don’t line up eye to eye. This forces me to make eye contact.
If any of you listen to the Harvard Business Review podcast, Women at Work, they did an episode just the other day about it.