AUTHOR:
Abby P.

DATE:
June 16, 2015

CATEGORIES:
Success from the Start

READING TIME:
4 minutes

FOLLOW US

Basics of Networking: A Guide to Success

AUTHOR:
Abby P.

DATE:
June 16, 2015

CATEGORIES:
Success from the Start

READING TIME:
4 minutes

Early in my career, I started attending networking events in order to make connections in the broader business community.

Initially, I found these events to be quite intimidating and the sheer number of events overwhelming. But, I reminded myself that networking was going to help me in business so I stuck with it.

Along the way, I discovered networking does not have to be uncomfortable, forced, and full of sales pitches. In reality, networking done correctly can provide great benefits.

Networking can be an important tool for a successful career, and meeting the right people can help your professional and personal development. After learning through trial and error, I’ve compiled a few go-to networking fundamentals to help you make the most of your efforts.

Set goals

Before you jump in, set goals for your networking endeavors and  consider what exactly you want to get out of it:

  • Are you looking for ways to advance your career and grow professionally?
  • Do you want to meet people who may be able to help with a project you are working on?
  • Are you seeking community of professionals in your industry or trade who can serve as a resource for discussion, collaboration, and new ideas?
  • Or do you want to learn more about possible career paths?

Knowing what you want to learn can give you ideas on what types of events to attend and how to start conversations.

When you’ve decided which event to attend (see next tip), you  may also want to set concrete goals for the specific event, such as meeting three new people. You can go into an event with more purpose and make the most of your networking activities. These concrete goals should help you push yourself outside of your normal comfort zone and, ultimately, help you achieve your overarching networking goals.

Find the right events for you with the right attendees

After determining your networking goals, you have a starting point. Look for events that align with your goals and objectives. Alumni groups and professional associations often host events that help members meet people with similar interests. Also, sites like meetup.com can help you find groups in your area based on your interests or profession.

If large crowds aren’t up your alley, don’t worry. Events come in all forms. You can look for a brunch event with a limited number of attendants, and if you’re still uncomfortable, bring along a friend (preferably one who knows some of the other attendants and can help you with introductions).

Next, check the registration list. Many networking events post or send the list to those registered. Identify the attendees you want to speak with, and do a little research. Ask yourself, if you have two minutes to speak with those on your “must see” list, what do you want to know? Jot down a few questions.

Now that you have the right event and a list of  who you want to connect with, it’s time to go.

Make connections

Once you’ve made it to the event, it’s time to start meaningful conversations. Try to engage with people you want in your network and look for the notable attendees from the registration list. Breaking into a group may be difficult, but missing the conversation may be worse. I suggest waiting for a pause in the group and say something like, “Hello. I’m Abby with Reynolds and Reynolds. I apologize for interrupting. You sounded like you were having a great discussion. Do you mind if I join?”

A networking event is meant to allow people to make a number of introductions. Try not to force conversations and also know when it's time to move on. It’s as simple as saying, “Excuse me. I just saw someone who I need to meet. It was nice meeting you. Enjoy the rest of the event.”

While many people feel networking is all about getting something from someone, ideally you want to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Look for ways your skills and experience can help others, and they probably will be willing to help you out as well.

Now, and not until now, should you pull out your business cards, and only exchange with attendees who you believe you could help or could help you.

Follow up in a meaningful way

After leaving a networking event, I often take out the business cards I gathered and jot down notes on the back. What did we speak about? Did I mention I would follow up with the name of a connection or share an article? You may also find it useful to make these notes during the event, and it's completely appropriate to do so.

Now, follow through with those new connections. The key to successful follow-up is to do it soon  — one to three days after the event — and tie it back to what you discussed. If you’re able to add new information to continue the discussion, such as an article on a topic you both have an interest in, it can help grow your professional relationship.

Personal follow-up also shows your commitment to professional networking. Others will see you as more than just your business card.

With these basics in mind,  I hope you look forward to your next networking event. Keep an open mind, and be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. I think you’ll find you have a better time and make better connections by pursuing networking with a purpose!


Share this Article

Abby P.

Internal Communications Lead

Abby graduated from The Ohio State University, where she studied strategic communications and Spanish. She now works as the internal communications lead at Reynolds and she is a specialist in corporate messaging, personal branding and professional development. Outside of the office, Abby enjoys cheering on Buckeyes football, playing in recreational sand volleyball leagues, and spending time with family and friends.