In the last year, I networked my little rear off throughout Chicago. I slogged through snow and rain, arriving at networking events disheveled and wind-blown, often receiving strange glances in response to my unintentional bed-head and running mascara.
Nonetheless, I became well versed in the art of networking—or, as I like to call, it dating without touching. (Word of warning: If someone does try to touch you at a networking event, he’s not there to network.)
For those of you searching for jobs and unsure what to expect from networking events, it’s similar to dating—if you’ve never dated anyone, I’ve heard Match.com
is pretty solid.
These six tips will make you a pro networker, and maybe get you a few dates.
1. Don’t get drunk.
Trying to have a somewhat sensible conversation with someone who’s snockered is pretty hard. People do get nervous at networking events, as they do on first dates. You’re meeting new people and trying to impress them with your wit, know-how, and charming personality—that calls for a drink.
But just one
Networking events tend to attract a core group of people along with newcomers, so word spreads. Loosen up with one drink, but remember your purpose and be poised, mannerly, and engaging.
2. Never discredit anyone.
You’ve probably heard stories of people meeting the love of their life and wanting to be at least 15 feet away from them. Love blossoms in ways you wouldn’t expect, as do professional relationships. Just because someone’s in IT doesn’t mean they don’t know someone in PR. Connect with everyone.
3. Don’t talk about yourself—or your career—the entire time.
Have you ever gone out with someone who manages to tell you his (or her) whole life story in the span of a half-hour? It makes for a boring time.
When networking, ask questions. Show a real interest in each person you speak with. Don’t focus entirely on your career aspirations. People will remember you more if you add some life to the conversation. Ask whether they’re from Chicago. See if they’re Cub fans. Do they like cheese sandwiches? Remember, (appropriate) humor is almost always appreciated.
4. Make sure you let them know what you can do for them.
Minds out of the gutter, everyone.
You’re unlikely to go on a second date with someone if they don’t bring something to the table. Same goes for networking. You can’t expect someone to help you with your career if you’ve only asked and haven’t given anything.
Just because you’re a burgeoning whatever doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer. If they’re also looking for work, offer to play matchmaker and let them connect with you on LinkedIn. They might remember you for helping them and introduce you to your future employer.
If you connect with someone who has a job, find out their interests. Do they love going out to new bars and restaurants in Chicago? Introduce them to your friend who started www.MyDrinkOn.com
I can tell when someone’s zoning out while I’m talking to them. It happens—but don’t be the person who does this at events. Listen to the people. Engage them in interesting conversations and, after meeting them, write down these three things on the business card they gave you:
• The name, date, and location of the networking event;
6. Always say, “thank you.”
• How you can help them, and how they can help you;
• A fun tidbit (you both wish Chia pets would make a comeback) from your conversation with them.
If someone takes you on a nice date, etiquette suggests that you thank them. After a networking event, gather all the business cards you’ve received and email (or tweet, or connect with via LinkedIn—be sure to personalize your LinkedIn message
) each and every
person you met to thank them for taking the time to connect with you. Remind them who you are and where you met, and insert a fun tidbit from your conversation.
How do I know these techniques work?
Six months ago, I met an IT recruiter at a networking event that looked like a total bust in Wicker Park. He and I talked about my career goals, wine, and Chicago. I sent him an email thanking him for his time, and he connected me with a woman in PR, who invited me to a brunch where I met @StaciTara
, who invited me to a Ragan Communications networking event at The Playground.
There, I met @iquotesometimes
, who suggested I apply for a position at Ragan. Shortly after, @StaciTara was hired at Ragan. Between @iquotesometimes, @raganreporter, and @StaciTara, I built a network that led me to a brunch with the CEO, who is now my boss.
It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t reached out to the IT recruiter at a seemingly hopeless networking event in Wicker Park.
Don’t worry, I thanked him, too.
Samantha Hosenkamp is Ragan Communication’s social media editor.