Networking. Its so important as professionals but its an elusive concept. Put a bunch of professionals in a room with food, drinks, and business cards. What do you get? For some, you exchange cards and possibly make some new connections. For others, you remain at square one; a professional in a room with food, drinks, and business cards. There is an awkwardness in networking; at least until you get used to it. We are told not to use others to get ahead, but networking makes that concept seem less abrasive. Basically, you are hoping that someone in that room can connect you to your next job or opportunity. I'll admit it, I see networking as an opportunity to 1) get in a room with other people who might have the same goals and ambition as me, and 2) to figure out what fields or opportunities there are that I wouldn't ordinarily consider.
At the end of last year, I attended a young professionals night at a downtown DC venue. I found this event randomly and decided to give it a shot in the interest of networking. The atmosphere was awesome great music, food, etc... The professionals were well dressed and had their respective ID badges on. As I walk around the room, I noticed that people with the same employer badge were hanging together and the rest of us were just looking for an opportunity to jump into a conversation. I attempted to have a conversation, but the young lady wanted to go back to her group after grabbing her drinks from the bar. I left that networking event thinking "WTF".
Now in the new year, I am taking a new approach to networking. Here are some tips to try out (or we'll try them out together):
1) Don't stand there and look stupid- Self explanatory; guilty of this!
2) Be upfront, not casual- You will spend less time trying to make conversation.
3) Make eye contact- Professional tactic; easy way to spot dead ends.
4) Play show and tell- Exchange business cards with those who are more interested as you the person then you the card.
5) Follow-up on social media- I'm not the best with keeping track of others, but social media help me that. I can send a follow request and maintain contact that way.
Please share your tips or networking experiences!