The Art of Easing into Networking
By Lucy Sorgea, Account Coordinator, Spring 2020
We’ve all heard that networking is how you land your dream job and how you hear about crucial opportunities, but what if you’re shy? What if grabbing coffee with an old coworker or emailing a former boss sounds like a nightmare for you? Simply put, it may feel awkward at first and that’s why it’s important to ease into networking.
There are essentially three ways to network. Breaking down how to navigate each type of networking situation will help you first choose a type that feels comfortable to you and secondly will prepare you to make a lasting impression on whomever you want to impress.
The first type is a networking event. You know the ones. These involve a room full of people you don’t know and may even cost money. Meeting new people, especially ones who could be extremely important to your future can be nerve-wracking. Follow these tips to exude confidence and poise. Tips for networking events:
Maintain Eye Contact: I know, it seems obvious, but this is so crucial to remembering them and for them to remember you. Additionally, eyes darting around the room can make your counterpart uncomfortable.
Body Language: Show you’re engaged by nodding your head, smiling, and turning your body towards your new colleague. Practice this next time you’re in a meeting or lecture. People notice, and they ask you for your opinion.
Repeat their name: This will help you remember who you are meeting and automatically make them feel important. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” When you show that you’ve remembered this small detail about them, they immediately feel valued, and in turn, want to show an interest in you.
The second type of networking is an informal meeting with a mentor. For example, one might grab coffee with an old coworker, or meet up with an acquaintance for the purpose of getting advice. Either way, you’ve met them before, so follow these tips to ensure this is a productive and comfortable meeting. Tips for Informal Meetings:
Bring your resume: Take it out during the meeting if you want a professional to look it over and offer their advice. Or, give it to them at the end of the meeting so they have an updated version of it. Either way, it will remind them that this was more than a social call.
Write a thank you card after the meeting: The key here is that it must be handwritten. This will show the person that you appreciate his or her taking the time to meet with you. The note will likely live on their desk for a few days and may nudge them to mention you to other coworkers. Worried that thank you notes are expensive? They sell eight-packs for one dollar at the Dollar Tree. Now you have no excuse!
Bring a notebook: Having your laptop open and typing while another person is speaking can distract them and is quite frankly, unprofessional. Bring a notebook and pen to take notes on anything important they tell you. When you take down what they tell you it makes them feel valued and they’ll want to talk again with you soon.
The third type is a digital networking, which can include anything from an email to someone you’d like to work for to a post on LinkedIn detailing a particular event you went to recently. Tips for Digital Networking:
Have something important to say: There are certainly articles that you come across that remind you of a colleague. Email them these relevant articles or events. This will ensure that you’re top of mind when friends ask them if they know someone who would be a great hire.
Update them on major projects: Did you recently plan an event, work on something exciting for your internship or submit a hefty class project? Send your former coworkers, mentors, and acquaintances in the field these updates. Let them know that you’re doing meaningful work and they’ll see how you’re growing as a professional.
Add everyone you’ve ever met on LinkedIn: I’m serious! Add people you went to high school with, your parents’ friends, your old babysitter, your sorority sisters, etc. More importantly, add people that you meet at networking events, within 24 hours of the event. Make sure they remember you and that they see what you’re up to. LinkedIn messenger is also a great way to ask colleagues to an informal meeting.
Tiny tweaks in what you’re already doing can have a big impact. Changing the way you act at networking events or actually using LinkedIn messenger isn’t rocket science, but it is helping you to stand out to future employers. A recruiter once told me that she doesn’t hire anyone who doesn’t write her a handwritten thank you note. Easing into networking is easier than you think.