Networking: The Adult Play Date

Parties—we’ve all been invited to them. In third grade, there were birthday parties where you knew all the guests. Then, there is the gradual progression of college parties, where you mingle with your group of friends and branch out to people of different majors. Then finally there’s the real deal—-a business event where you have only online profiled the people in attendance.

ImageTonight was one of those parties. Everyone hates the word networking, but really there are only two key components of networking:

1. Meet someone new.

2. Exchange contact information.

You could have talked about how skittles taste like the rainbow or just swung your hips on the dance floor together, but as long as you have those two key components, you have started the initial stages of networking. However, the key is that you cannot stop there. How many times do you smile at the cute boy in aisle 10 or exchange anecdotes with a girl in the waiting room? These are all faceless, nameless people you meet on a daily basis.

To truly network well, you need to:

1. Make an indelible impression and

 2. Follow-up

The first part is significant. Everyone has their own reasons to network , may they be to find new financial backers, new clients, potential employer, etc. Everyone wants to do business; they simply don’t know who they want to do business with. So, as every career advisor will tell you, you need to brand yourself. You need to figure out who you are, what you represent, and what image you want people to see when they think of your name the next month as they clear out their business suit of colorful cards. Tonight, for example, I was the gregarious, courageous girl. I opened with the line, “What are your three greatest weaknesses?” Everyone loathes this question, but it provoked interesting conversation and got past the fluff of commenting on the food, the wait staff, the environment and helped me to get to know these people on a deeper level than I ever have. After an ice breaker of a question, since I was at a small business/start-up event, I interviewed everyone from a marketing perspective (my field). This allowed me to add input to the conversation. Even though I know little about neither bee keeping nor the chemical engineering of water purification, I was still able to shine in my element and let the other person do the same. The key is to shine because when you talk about something you like, you radiate and thus become memorable. People remember passion. Everyone has a dream, but the only one everyone references is Martin Luther King Jr.’s

The last and most important part of networking is following up and I don’t mean adding another Linkedin connection. That is equivalent to placing a trophy on your shelf—it’s just for show. You need to add them to Linkedin with a personal note (reminding them of the event you met at), but you also need to email them and/or connect with them on Twitter. After the reiteration of necessities in text form, business talk transpires. This happens when you send them a link to an article you two can discuss or an invitation to lunch.

At some parties you can sit next to someone who loves Pinot Grigo just as much as you do and become bffs for the night, but this is not grade school. They will not be on the playground during gym class the next day. If you want a play date, you’re going to have to learn how to play the game.

What are your most successful tactics of networking?

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