Meet, Connect, Grow: Networking Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Calling All Optimists on Jun 6, 2019

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to professional development: networking. You know you have to do it, but you probably avoid it and the resulting social anxiety at all costs.

But before you slip out of the next professional event early, know that networking is worth it. Expanding your professional network is arguably one of the BEST things you can do for your career! The next person you meet could land you your next job, lead you down a different career path, or be that professional mentor you’ve been looking for. So brush that nervousness aside, it’s time to up your networking skills with these handy Dos and Don’ts.

Do’s

Set goals: Networking requires you to take action! Actually going to a networking event or reaching out to someone via LinkedIn is half the battle. Start setting monthly networking quotas for yourself with how many people you want to meet and events you want to go to. Even starting small with attending two events a month can make a significant difference in your professional world. Start with your alumni group, young professional networks in your city, or peruse Meetup for like-minded professionals. If you’re a little more on the introverted side, also try looking for professional events in your city that involve panels, discussions, or presentations to give you something to talk about during the networking portion!

Have a plan of attack: Before connecting with anyone, set your networking intentions. Are you exploring different career paths? An organization in particular? Looking for advice? Make sure you have a clear idea before starting a conversation so you can avoid an awkward silence after the handshake.

Pitch yourself: Once the conversation is on you, what are you going to say? Make sure you have a short elevator pitch in mind with who you are and what you do. After all, getting asked about your job at a professional networking event is unavoidable. If you’re just out of school or unemployed, make sure you highlight what you studied and/or what you’re looking for now. If you’re looking for a career change, talk about both what you do now, what you want to do, and (bonus) how they relate. Just remember to be genuine!

Ask questions: This is where your intentions come in handy! Networking is less about talking and more about listening. Once you’re in a conversation, ask your new connection about their job, industry, and whatever else you’re professionally questing for. It can help to draft some questions in advance! Just remember to show genuine interest in their career path and not just in what you think they can do for you.

Follow-up: Want the conversation to continue? Perfect the art of the follow-up! Exchange business cards (Don’t have one? Make a basic one at Moo) and send them a follow-up email within a few days of meeting them. Thank them for their time and include a way to continue the conversation that fits your intentions (Coffee to learn more? A connection with someone else? Your Resume for advice?).

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Don’ts

Stick to who you know: We get it, meeting new people can be nerve-wracking. But when you’re attending events, branch out from who you know and explore new connections! Even if you go to the event with a friend as a safety blanket (we all need one sometimes), divide and conquer the room and give each other pep talks when needed.

Enjoy the event a little too much: Real talk, most networking events involve alcohol. And if you’re of age, you can always have a drink and grease those social wheels. Just make sure you don’t hit the bar too hard, you want to keep channeling professional vibes and not be the person everyone remembers for the wrong reasons.

Underestimate others: You might attend an event with the specific goal of meeting someone or talking to a certain organization. Just make sure you don’t underestimate the value of others you talk to along the way. You never know who might know the perfect person to talk to or reveal an opportunity you never thought of.

Be transactional: When it comes to networking, you probably want something. But there’s more to networking than introducing yourself and asking for a job. Focus on building a genuine professional connection with honest questions. Most people will be happy to help you, but it’ll be after they’re actually interested in you and your career.

Now it’s time to put your new networking skills to the test! Don’t worry, you got this!