We are constantly hearing the word "networking", especially in the early days of our careers. As summer rolls around again, I have flashbacks to last summer when I was thrown into a Washington D.C. networking world. The program that brought me to D.C. had us at more formal events in skirts to the knee, name tags, spewing our achievements in a subtle way, and shaking hands with everyone that came through. The non-formal networking also brought a heap of it's own challenges. Was I just suppose to innately know how to do this? Today, I am writing down some tips and tricks I learned and researched along the way.
1. Don't be nervous. If it's your first time networking or the specific event is intimidating, don't be nervous! Everyone else has the same aims in an event centered around networking-- to meet people. Go in with a smile and a confident step. You know yourself, you know your work, and by the end of this list you'll know some helpful hints.
2. Get over the difference in age, career, college, or whatever. When you first walk into a room full of strangers, it can be easy to gravitate towards the people who you share characteristics with, be it age, career or anything. Although those connections are really helpful and can lead to something great, don't be scared to talk to someone totally outside of your wheelhouse. Push yourself to get to know as many people as you can, you never know where a future investor, boss, friend, co-worker, or mentor will come from.
3. Introduce yourself and listen when they do the same. You're probably wearing a name tag if this is a networking-specific event but introduce yourself anyway! It helps people to remember your name. It's also really important that you try to remember their name! You're meeting a lot people at these events, so repeat their name back to them, to confirm that you've heard it right and to help remember it.
5. Eye contact, firm handshake, appropriate. Although I am certainly not the first, or probably the last, to tell you about the importance of eye contact and a firm handshake, I felt like it needed to be included in any adequate list of networking tips. Work on these skills, because they are universally useful and once you have them nailed down, it'll add so much confidence to your networking. Also, this probably is not the time for your stand-up set filled with inappropriate comedy or for you to ramble off curse words. Keep your language as clean as you can!
6. Elevator Pitch. It's important that you know who you are and that you can get that information to someone in 30-45 seconds. When I worked at my college's career center, before the Career Fair we would have students come in and practice pitching themselves to potential employers, the practice really helps. Go to coffee with a friend, or a peer mentor, and practice perfecting your pitch.
7. Get their information. Take their business card, or their phone number, and save it. I recommend taking a picture of the business card so even if you lose it you can still follow up with them. Even if they're not someone you see yourself working with right now, it can still be really helpful for the future.
8. Follow up. The follow up is so important. The next day or later that night send an email to everyone you met thanking them for their time and letting them know that you appreciated meeting them. This will open the channel for further communication and allow you to both remember how and when you met. Do this right away! The longer you wait, the less chance you actually get it done!
9. Remember that everyone you meet is important. Most importantly, treat everyone you meet with respect and appreciation. Don't go to these events only looking to talk to people further up the career ladder than you and be rude to others, there may be people at events who are newer in your field than you and want to get to know you. It's important that you are looking to help the women who come after you as much as you want the women who came before you to help you, or maybe even more!
I hope that you guys all take the challenge and learn or continue to network with your own special flair.