June 6, 2024


Rules for Networking: Strategies that Last, Part II

By: Leah Nalepa

Previously, I wrote a blog post on Rules for Networking Part 1 specifically focused on relationship building being the crux of networking. While that remains important, there is strategy to networking that ultimately leads to successful relationship building.  

Here are several strategies to incorporate to become an effective networker, no matter what event you’re attending: 

1. Don’t be a wall flower: in other words, engage in conversation. While you may be nervous to speak with strangers, networking isn’t just for extroverts, but it also isn’t for the faint of heart. Be confident in who you are and use the buddy system so you feel more assured approaching another person or group. Slowly, you’ll build confidence in your ability to meet and build rapport with others. 

2. Do your research: While I mentioned this in my previous post, it bears repeating. At the very least, if you’re able, review the list of attendees at the event beforehand. At best, research which attendees are worth getting to know based on your potentially mutual goals. This prevents wasted time and builds intentionality into your interactions. 

3. Be prepared to share your contact information: Not so very long ago, business cards were key. While they still play an important role, they aren’t the only tool you can utilize to share your contact information. LinkedIn, email, phone numbers, and Twitter and other mediums by which you may stay connected to those you’ve met. Be weary of how much social media information you share though; your goal is ultimately to maintain a professional image. 

4. Be thoughtful in how you eat and drink: Every networking event will have some form of food or drink. Be mindful of how you’re consuming, especially if it’s alcohol. You don’t want to look like that’s your only meal for the day, but more importantly you don’t want to set a foolish example by being intoxicated. A rule of thumb for drinks is 1-2, depending on your tolerance. Another point about food: try not to hold both food and drink at the same time unless you’re at a table. Holding both makes it difficult to shake another’s hand, hand out a business card, or share contact information via phone. Eat first, then mingle with a drink. 

5. Ask open-ended questions: It’s much easier to get to know a stranger by asking them open-ended questions about themselves. People like to talk about themselves and share what they’re doing. Ask questions about what they do, why they do what they do, where they’re from, if they have video or book recommendations based on mutual interests, what some of their hobbies are, etc. Everyone present at the event is human, and they all have a story to tell. 

6. Be prepared to concisely describe yourself: This is also known as having an elevator pitch. In 10-30 seconds, focus on sharing key points of information about yourself when asked. This can include where you work and what you do, what your long-term career goals are, why you’re motivated by that, and what you’re hoping to learn now to get there. 

7. Remember who you’re representing: You are representing your brand and your company. While building key relationships is important for you and your career goals, it’s crucial to remember that you are still representing your company’s brand. Don’t speak negatively about your team or organization; rather, uplift them in conversation and share what you’ve learned through your experience there.

Networking isn’t complicated, but it does take some deliberate thought. Be intentional with how you present and conduct yourself and who you’re getting to know during each event. Understanding how to effectively network adds credibility to your professionalism, makes conversations with potential colleagues and partners much easier, and paves the way for fruitful, long-term relationships. Happy networking!