Networking 101

By Anders Wallace

Photo by Product School

Networking is an important part of the job search process. Although some people falsely believe networking equates to begging for a job, the truth is that networking is all about building relationships that both parties might draw on in the future. However, this is still easier said than done. Many people are unsure of how to begin, let alone sustain, a conversation with a stranger. This blog post will provide tips for how to network confidently and effectively.

Networking Tips

Get warmed up

Next time you attend a networking event, try saying “hello” to five different people in the first minute you enter the room. Don’t worry about starting a conversation with these people—just “hello,” a smile, and a nod is fine (although if you feel a natural connection then go with it!)—and move along. This helps to get you into a more social state of mind. You will find your conversations will be smoother and more fun as the event progresses because of this social momentum you built at the start.

Start the conversation

To begin a conversation, find out the other person’s relation to or interest in the event. For example, ask: “What brings you to the event tonight?” “How do you know the event’s host?” “What did you think of the talk/presentation/main speaker?” “How did you come to be in this line of work?” After they’ve shared their experience, feel free to share your own experience or ask follow-up questions.

Keep the conversation going

Show curiosity and draw out positive emotions. Consider asking: “What’s the most interesting part of your job?” “What current projects are you working on?” “What project or accomplishment are you most proud of?” “What do you like to do outside of work?” It’s a good rule of thumb to match the depth of dialogue to the function of the environment you’re in. Try not to be too nosy.

End the conversation

End the conversation smoothly and politely. If you feel you’ve made a meaningful connection, be sure to exchange contact information. Some examples of parting lines include: “It’s been great chatting with you, and we should definitely keep in touch (hand them your business card).” “I’ve loved chatting with you, but I need to catch up with a few others, hopefully I’ll see you later on.” “I’m sorry I have to step away, but I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.” “‘It’s been great chatting and I hope we can reconnect—do you have a LinkedIn/Twitter/Email?”

One final tip

Help organize a networking event

A lot of networking takes place at conferences or in other official settings. To make the task easier, a great way to make instant connections is to get more formally involved with the event. Consider volunteering to help out with registration or other administrative tasks. You will not only have many opportunities to engage with the event’s attendees, you’ll also make connections with your fellow volunteers. These interactions may feel more natural since you’re sure to have common interests and will likely be able to share in a concrete task, as well as a conversation.

Some selected references:

Graham, Allison. “Hate Small Talk? These 5 Questions Will Help You Work Any Room.” Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1843752/hate-small-talk-these-5-questions-will-help-you-work-any-room, on 8/26/2016.

Levy, Julie. How to Talk to Strangers: The Art of Small Talk. Workshop held at Brooklyn Brainery on 10/1/2015.