Friday, May 9, 2008

Networking 101

In this post, I have put together some great articles I found online relating to networking. As you read through these articles focus on taking away one or two ideas to practice or start doing this week. The only way to get better is by practicing, so find ways to practice your networking skills.

10 Tips for Successful Business Networking

by Stephanie Speisman

Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.

  1. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.

  2. Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.

  3. Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.

  4. Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.

  5. Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.

  6. Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.

  7. Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.

  8. Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, "How may I help you?" and no immediate answer comes to mind.

  9. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.

  10. Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.


Networking Tips: How to Work a Room

UC Berkley Career Center

Networking can serve as a valuable strategy for getting a lead on a job, gathering intelligence, or catching the special attention of a company recruiter. Read on to find out more about the art of schmoozing.

Most of us are not born minglers. Practice and preparation will help you develop the skills it takes to be effective at an Employer Info Session, a Career Fair, or other serendipitous opportunities. As difficult or awkward as it may feel at first, the ability to meet and make a positive, professional impression on people will become ever more important as your career advances and develops. Here are some tips to get you started.

Check your attitude to improve your yield

Many of us are shy or reluctant to approach strangers in new social situations, so understandably it's not always easy to muster the energy to try and connect with people at networking events. That's why it's key to get mentally geared up before you even show up. Because your attitude often guides your behavior, you must overcome any negative self-talk that could hinder you from reaching out to others. Do these outlooks sound familiar?

  • "Why should I bother trying to impress this person? I'm only one of a hundred students this recruiter is going to see today"

  • "I don't think I know enough to engage the company reps in an intelligent conversation"

  • "I've never really been good at meeting people. That's just my personality"

Such negative thoughts prevent you from pushing past any social roadblocks standing in your way. The truth is that many, if not most, people have similar thoughts in group situations and are just as hesitant to initiate conversations. But if you change your attitude from negative to positive, you can instead take the lead. Remember:

  • People enjoy talking about themselves. Ask them questions to get them started

  • People feel flattered when you show an interest in them and their work/organization and they will reciprocate your demonstrations of sincere interest

  • You have more to offer others than you might think; just believe it

Redefine what it means to interact with "strangers"

When you join a new student organization or club, you share certain interests with the members. When you go to a party, you run into people you've seen in class or around your dorm. A networking event is not really all that different if you view it as an occasion to find what you have in common with other people there. Commonalities help "strangers" connect more easily.

  • Take the initiative to approach others, introduce yourself, and share a piece of information that could reveal the common thread you share with them.

  • During conversations, listen carefully to discover shared interests or goals.

  • Use your shared background or interests as the basis for sustaining conversations.

Prepare and practice your self-introduction

To avoid being tongue-tied when you try to start a conversation with someone you don't know, prepare a self-introduction that is clear, interesting, and well delivered. What you say about yourself will depend on the nature of the event, but in any case, it shouldn't take longer than 8-10 seconds. Although practicing your introduction might at first seem silly and artificial, it will eventually help you make an introduction that sounds natural, confident, and smooth. Here are a few examples:

  • "Hi, my name is Catherine Lee. I'm glad to have this chance to meet you and learn how a psychology major can break into the pharmaceutical industry." [Employer Information Session]

  • Good morning, I'm Bryan Sampson, a former summer intern at your Los Angeles branch." [Career Fair]

  • "Hello, my name is Jessica Garcia. I'm a junior rhetoric major looking to find out what it's like working in public relations and marketing." [Communications Career Night]

Risk rejection - it's not the end of the world

It happens. Some individuals may not respond to your introduction in the way you would like. If that takes place, don't take it personally and just move on. As long as you maintain an outgoing and friendly attitude, you can plan for continued networking success by:

  • Identifying the goals you want to achieve at the networking event before you go (e.g., to learn more about a career, to develop internship leads, etc.)

  • Keeping a healthy sense of humor.

  • Treating everyone as you would want to be treated. Aside from being the courteous thing to do, you don't know who might be helpful to you in the future.

And last, but not least, don't forget how important it is for you to physically move around and about when you're at a networking event. You can't work a room when you're sitting down! So get in there and show them what you've got.

For more suggestions, check out Susan RoAne's "How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Savvy Socializing in Person and Online" or go to


The Four Most Common Networking Mistakes

By Caroline Levchuck

Take a tip from Miss Manners: Etiquette is important.

And perhaps nowhere more so than at networking events.

You may already know that networking events are one of the best ways to find job leads and expand your Rolodex. But attending events is only half the battle. You also need to know how to behave at them.

If you talk too much, say too little or arrive unprepared, you can ruin your chances to leave with a job lead.

This Ain't No Party: Remember why you're here.

The purpose of a networking event is to help you advance professionally. It's a social event -- but a professional one. Think of it as a conference social or a business dinner.

The cardinal rule of networking events: Never get drunk. We all remember what happened to Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl." (If not, watch the movie)

You want the people you meet to remember you as capable, competent and polished -- not as the guy or gal who was wearing a lampshade on their head at the end of the evening.

Dress appropriately. Err on the side of conservative and choose an outfit you could wear to a job interview. Your attire should say, "I'm a professional," not "I'm a party girl (or boy)."

After all, you're not at a party.

Do Your Homework

Don't arrive at a networking event without a plan of attack.

First, find out which person or organization is sponsoring the event. Next, see if there will be speakers, presenters or any special guests in attendance. Last, make a list of people you expect to be there and want to meet.

Do a little research on each of them. A little knowledge goes a long way. If you know something about the people you approach, it's much easier to start a conversation -- and keep it going.

Pitch In

Don't forget to prepare your elevator pitch.

You'll need it to introduce yourself to people at a networking event.

An elevator pitch is brief -- brief enough to share during an elevator ride. In your pitch, give a three-minute summary of who you are, your experience and abilities.

Practice your pitch before the networking event so that it'll sound natural. Be confident, but not pushy. Remember, a networking event isn't a formal interview. And don't forget to smile.

Quality, Not Quantity

Focus on the quality, not quantity, of your connections at networking events. You'll get better results by making a few good connections than by handing out dozens of business cards indiscriminately.

And first impressions matter, so mind your manners.

Always stay focused on the person you are talking to and maintain eye contact. Don't scan the room trying to decide whom you'll talk to next.

Also, show interest in the people you meet. You can make a great impression by asking a few thoughtful questions. Above all, be genuine and sincere.

A strong professional network is based on relationships, and it takes time to build a relationship.


Tips to Take Networking Online

By Caroline Levchuck

Is e-mail an effective way to meet new people? Probably not, says a recent study.

Via e-mail, researchers tested the theory that only six degrees of separation exist between any two people in the world. While the theory holds true in real life, they found that that wasn't the case in virtual reality. Only one in 50 e-mail chains reached their intended recipients, reported "The New York Times."

But, despite disappointing results, there ARE effective ways to network electronically. Job Tip of the Day shares ideas on how to build your professional network without leaving your computer.

Go Back to School

Most colleges and even some high schools have online communities specifically for alumni. Made up of people in a wide range of industries and occupations, these communities encourage fellow alums to reconnect and network.

Online alumni groups are a great way to test the waters if you're new to virtual communities. Since members have a shared experience -- their alma mater -- it's easier to join in the discussions.

If your college doesn't have an online alumni community, or you'd rather not join one, you may want to consider taking an online class.

Many schools offer online continuing education and conduct classes in everything from advertising to business to technology. You'll not only enhance your knowledge and build your resume, but you'll also meet other students with similar professional interests.

Find Communities With Common Interests

No matter what your interest, there's likely an online community dedicated to it.

From astronomy to genealogy to '80s music, online communities cover every subject imaginable. Choose a topic you want to learn more about, or one that you're passionate about, and do a keyword search for a community related to it. Or, go to a Web site like Yahoo! Groups and browse their list of communities here:

To expand not just your personal but your professional network, join a community tailored to a specific industry or occupation.

Online communities are a great way to learn more about a profession. Once you find a group that has potential for networking, browse the messages to learn more about the industry and its career options. When you feel comfortable in the community, start posting your own messages. Then let the networking being!

You can visit one of HotJobs' 34 industry communities here:

Join Groups Designed to 'Meet and Greet'

Some online communities are expressly for the purpose of meeting other professional colleagues. And those are perfect for networking.

To expand your professional network -- and help your job search -- join a community designed for people in your industry to meet one another. If you've recently relocated for a job or are planning to do so, you can even network in communities created specifically for people new to a city to get acquainted with one another.

One of the best aspects of online communities specifically designed for networking: All members are ready and willing to meet new people. What could be an easier way to build your professional network?

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