Spelling Out Networking

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One of the best pieces of advice we continually offer to students and young professionals is to be intentional about building your network.

Although “networking” may sound like a buzzword, there is long-term value in developing and fostering professional relationships. Connections developed outside your office can lead to mentoring opportunities, career development, referrals, contacts for your clients and allies for your success.

Interaction opportunities present themselves every day. They’re strolling The Market at Pepper Place on Saturday morning, working out in your True40 studio, riding in an Uber, sipping coffee at the table next to you at Red Cat or tailgating before a Florida State football game. All of these examples are places where I actually sparked meaningful relationships with a simple introduction or casual conversation.

While many connections (like the examples above) are serendipitous, when you’re planning to be in a situation designed for networking, come prepared with a strategy for maximizing the opportunity.

As a former shy girl, networking wasn’t a skill that came naturally to me early in my career like many of my extroverted friends and unfortunately, Florida State didn’t offer a “Networking 101” class. I recently heard a helpful acronym – at, you guessed it, a networking event – which lays out a simple, effective blueprint for cultivating new and valuable relationships.

NNametag. Wear your nametag on your right shoulder so it will be easy to read as you extend your right hand to shake theirs.

E Education. Study up on the group hosting the event and the people that are likely to attend. Review their websites and social media profiles. This background knowledge will give you the confidence to initiate meaningful, relevant conversations.

TThank You. Send a thank you note to people you forged a strong connection with. Hand-written notes are preferred, as they offer a more personal touch and are likely to stick with the recipient.

WWork the Room. Don’t stand or sit by the same people throughout the event, especially if you already know them. Move around and meet different people. If you’ve done your research, you will have conversation-starters prepared.

OOrganize. Be organized about who you want to meet, why you want to connect with them and what you can talk to them about. This will help you plan how you want to work the room.

R Rolodex. While rolodexes may be outdated, exchanging business cards is not. Request a business card or contact information following meaningful interactions. You’ll need this for the final step.

KKeep in Touch. Find reasons to periodically call or email your new contacts. Invite someone to coffee or lunch to discuss an issue or seek advice. Connect with them on LinkedIn, or follow their organization’s social media accounts. Remember those that invited you to visit their office and take them up on the offer. Don’t let your hard work of making a new connection go to waste. 

My PUBLISHED by Peritus takeaway is this:

Whether you’re networking in the wild or at a dedicated event, know that your personal and professional network is built over a lifetime – and not without effort. It’s never too early to start investing in these relationships, even if you’re a student just beginning your major’s coursework or a professional relocating to a new city.

Be proactive about investing time in networking, even if it’s setting a small goal like grabbing coffee with someone new once per month – and if it’s not a skill that comes naturally to you, just remember to N.E.T.W.O.R.K.