Networking

Scroll down to read tips about who to talk to, what to say, sample messages and what to do at networking events.

Photo by  Helena Lopes  on  Unsplash
  • Change your mindset from "Ugh I hate networking" to "Today I'm going to meet a new person."

  • Write notes about people you’ve meet on the back of their business cards so you can reference it in a message later.

    • For example, if someone gives you a book recommendation, or you find out you have a mutual friend, write it down.

  • Join Facebook groups or meetups.

    • These events are usually free as opposed to official professional groups which may have membership fees. 

    • Social media serves as a more informal platform so you might have a better chance at talking to people in your industry.

  • Send articles to your contacts that are interesting and engaging.

    • They can be a great conversation starter and shows you're proactive, and are thinking of them.

  • Make a list of 3 people you have been meaning to contact, and do it TODAY.

@mark.c from  www.nappy.co/

@mark.c from www.nappy.co/

  • Comment on people's Linkedin articles, posts, updates.

    • It shows you're engaged and supportive.

    • Helps boost their posts in the algorithm.

  • If someone makes an introduction for you, or gives you a contact - you need to reach out.

    • That person has most likely given the other person a heads up that you’ll be contacting them, so do so. 

    • It is very rude to leave them hanging and it makes your connection look bad.

  • Be the introducer. If you know someone that could be helpful for another person, offer to make the intro.

    • You can set up a group email or Linkedin, be specific in the intro about why they should be connected and how you know them.

    • Don’t wait around waiting for someone to do something for you, be proactive and it will come back to help you in return.

  • Always thank people and offer to help them.

    • Even if there’s not anything you feel like you could offer, make sure you are polite - afterall, they didn’t have to help you. 

    • Always thank them no matter how helpful they were.

@rawpixel from  www.nappy.co/

@rawpixel from www.nappy.co/

  • Stop making over-the-top goals.

    • Be realistic, your habits aren't going to change overnight. Set smaller goals like "I will add 10 colleagues on Linkedin" or "I will email my former boss by Friday."

  • When reaching out, use words like "chat" to feel more informal.  

    • Reframe your messages to be learning focused.

      • You want to learn about their career, the industry, job transition, etc.

  • Do not apologize for contacting someone.

    • Avoid phrases like, "Sorry to bother you" --do not give them another reason not to talk to you.

Photo by  Mimi Thian  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

  • Join professional networks and actually go to the events.

    • These groups will have meet ups, happy hours, talks, and even conferences you can attend to learn about the industry.

  • Dress nice on transit, you never know who you will meet.

    • I sat next to the CEO of a tech on the train, and a famous Disney animator and movie producer on a plane!

    • You don’t have to wear business casual, but I’ve always yielded the best results when I’m not wearing pajamas.

  • Feel free to follow-up with connections if they have not answered within 1.5-2 weeks.

    • If they still haven’t after that, move on.

    • You could word it like, “Just following up to see if you’d be interested in chatting. I’d love to learn more about the XX industry…”

  • Do not say “Pick your brain.”

    • Maybe it’s a personal preference, but it sounds annoying and gross.

“I don't know who to talk to”

  • Email or call people you already know. 

    • It can feel more comfortable because you already know them.

    • This is a great first step for shy people.

    • The connection might value you more because there is a personal tie.

    • Start with: Coworkers, former colleagues, classmates, professors, professors you didn't have, friends, friends of friends, your dog sitter, the janitor, alumni, guest speakers you’ve spoken with

    • Samples:

      • (former classmate) Hi Paul! I wanted to reach out and see how you're doing. I noticed you started a job at Quipp -- congratulations! I'd love to hear how that's going. Let me know if you'd be down to catch up sometime.

      • (Former colleague) Hey Xia, I hope you've been well, I certainly miss you and everyone at the office. How'd the real estate conference go? I'd love to catch up and hear about how everything is going for you. Let me know! 

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  • Alumni from your school are the golden ticket. 

    • They are usually more open to helping because you have that community tie.

  • Linkedin has built their success at connecting people. 

    • Much more than "professional Facebook."

  • Check out networking events in your industry. 

    • Different organizations and companies host events for this purpose. 

  • Take a class and befriend your colleagues. 

  • Join professional groups. 

  • Join free networking groups. 

  • See if your school offers any apps or platforms for students and alumni to connect. 

  • Look around, people are everywhere. Networking doesn’t have to be a formal interaction.

    • You can talk to people at the bar next to you!

Photo by  Antenna  on  Unsplash

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

“I don't know what to say”

  • Get an informational interview.

    • Informational interviews are conversations where you learn about someone. 

    • They are not interviewing you for a job, they’re simply to learn and know more people in the industry. 

    • This is SUPER important to do, because part of getting a job and building a career is learning. When people say they are going on coffee dates, this is what they are doing.

    • Reach out to people (both those that you know and do not know) via email or Llinkedin first. 

  • Be clear upfront about who you are you and what you want. 

    • Clearly you want something, even if it is just to learn (which is okay!). 

  • Don't ask for a big commitment. 

    • Use words like phrases like, “Would you be open to chatting? Or answering a few questions” 

  • Frame the conversation around learning and growing as a professional.

Photo by  Trung Thanh  on  Unsplash

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash

  • Never ask for a job or make the conversation about you finding a job.

    • During the actual conversation you can ask for tips or about their job hunt, but never flat out ask them for a job. That is rude and puts them in a weird position. 

  • Mention something about them to prove you did research 

    • Reference a project you saw they worked on or comment on an article they wrote

  • If a friend or mutual colleague introduced you, you can say, “XX suggested I reach out to you…” “XX said you would be a great person to talk to about XX”

    • People are more likely to respond if you name drop appropriately, make sure you ask your connection knows beforehand.

Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

  • Don't be overly formal, but still be professional and polite.

    • Remember that they are regular people too, so you can talk to them like a person and not a robot. 

  • Always thank them and express gratitude. 

    • People don’t have to talk to you, so be polite and grateful. 

  • Don’t apologize for anything, it reduces credibility.

    • Confidence shows and makes you more approachable.

Networking events

  • Write a note on the back business cards you receive to jog your memory of who they are.

    • You’ll be collecting a lot of cards. 

    • Take a few seconds to the side and write down something significant about them.

  • Remember, everyone is there for similar reasons - to talk to people, so try not to feel awkward starting conversations with random people.

    • Nobody will judge you for talking to them. 

  • Look for ambassadors or representatives that can help you if you are confused or unsure who to talk to.

    • Event helpers might have a different name tag or attire. 

  • This is not an interview, you will not be blacklisted for saying something awkward.

    • Everyone is talking to many people, they won’t remember if you say something weird. 

Photo by  Product School  on  Unsplash
  • Come prepared with business cards.

    • A good excuse for getting their contact. I always frame it like, “hey let’s trade!”

  • Avoid the card jumble by separating where you store your cards.

    • Keep yours cards in a left pocket, and new ones on the right, or front/back of a folder. 

  • When giving your card to someone, write a personalized note to them (ie. a recommendation you made of a book or article) so it feels more memorable for them.

    • Your card will stick out more when they look through them later.

    • It will help spark a connection rather than a transaction.

  • Find a food buddy that you can meet with every so often so you can enjoy the food, and still look like you're networking.

    • Coordinate with a friend at the start to meet up at a certain time to give you a networking rest without looking like you’re just sitting around.

Photo by  Frank Zhang  on  Unsplash

Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

  • Try out this handy trick for hand shaking when you have your hands full with food.

    • Hold your cup in the left hand, plate in right. When you go to shake someone's hand balance the plate on top of the cup and go for the handshake. 

  • Don't stuff your face, eat a meal before, and snack while you're there.

    • It’s easy to get caught up in the yummy food, but stay focused! 

  • Don't force your resume on them, it's not a job application. 

    • You're trying to CONNECT, it's not only about getting a job. It could lead to that, but don't make that your primary goal.

  • Create goals at the start of the night so you feel less overwhelmed when you go in

    • "I will talk to XX"

    • "I will find someone who works in the XX industry"

  • Don't just stick with your friends or family - the goal is to meet new people. 

    • Pick times to meet up with your friends if you feel anxious at the event. But make goals meet a few people in between.

  • Say their name when you introduce yourself, “Nice to meet you XX.”

    •  This shows you are listening and humanizes the interaction more. 

  • Use the bathroom to take breaks if you're feeling overwhelmed.

    • Sometimes I go to the bathroom a few times and just sit for a couple minutes to have a sense of silence because main networking events can be really over-stimulating, even for extroverted people.

  • Look for open groups of people standing in a V formation rather than a closed shape, like an O.

    • Look for physical openings in spaces.

  • Follow up within 48 hours or they might forget you.

    • Email or connect on Linkedin quick.  

    • Reference something about your conversation and mention how you met. 

  • Don't hog someone's time.

    • Be authentic but move along so they can talk to others.

  • Do not try to approach people right by the entrance - people need to take in everything when they first arrive and don't want to be bombarded. 

  • Keep coming to events. You'll get more confident and excited to come. 

    • They really do get easier if you get used to being around so many new people in one space.

Hi XX! How are you doing? I just wanted to reach out and say that I’m very interested in your experiences with graphic design. I’m pursuing a position within visual marketing, and using graphic design and photography with branding.
My website is www.website/com for more context about what I’m doing. I love the portrait that you designed! I was wondering if you’d be interested/available to chat sometime and catch up. I’d love to hear your advice about the design industry, and post grad transition, especially to NYC, which is my top choice to move to.
I know you’re really busy, so any advice even through message would be greatly appreciated!
— Actual message that I sent to an alumni from my high school
Hi XX! I just graduated from Ithaca College and came across your profile because I saw you’re also connected with XX. I checked out your website and loved it (especially your logo!). I was wondering if you’d be open to connecting. Id love to learn more about your design experiences!
— Actual Linkedin message I sent to a designer I found