Some wouldn’t consider a stack of business cards and the lingering memories of conversations exciting. I see possibilities of creating meaningful, networking relationships. I have been told multiple times by professors and professionals that it’s all about who you know. I agree, but I would add that it’s also about who knows you and why.
There are a plethora of articles giving advice on networking and polite conduct. For example, author Mark Macias advised that interaction is important, but listening is even more important. He wisely warns to choose your words carefully and think about the consequences of what you say.
Over the past few months, I’ve attended several networking events. I’ve gone to everything from a Dallas Women’s Foundation event about gender in media to the recent Society of Professional Journalists career conference. I thought I had learned enough to keep from making mistakes, but I left each event having learned something new regarding what to and what not to do. Here are a few things I’ve discovered.
1. Having a drink of alcohol is appropriate, but can result in avoidable problems.
At the gender in media event, I ordered a glass of wine. The location provided drinks and most of the ladies were enjoying something alcoholic of their choice. However, the wine made me uncomfortably warm, and thus uncomfortable in the social situation. This advice will vary depending on the person, but for me, I won’t be drinking any more wine at networking events. I want to be paying attention to the people I’m conversing with, instead of thinking about how I’m uncomfortable.
2. Always have an extra pen.
I used to be a waitress and had to constantly restock on pens because people would take them home. It doesn’t matter if they did so on purpose, or forgot and did so on accident. I still had to buy new pens. At these networking events, I keep showing up with only one pen, and inevitably, it always goes missing. Having an extra is also helpful in the case that another person forgets one entirely.
3. As I said above, it may be about who knows you, but also why they know you.
At one of these recent events, there was a question and answer session with a microphone migrating around the room. They announced the last question, and as the microphone was noticeably being passed to someone, another person stood up from across the room and started loudly asking their question. All the attendees, including myself, were stunned. I don’t doubt that everyone will remember this person, but for the wrong reasons. Being aware of surroundings and aware of your own actions cannot be under emphasized. You want to leave people with something positive.
4. Networking isn’t just about events.
As Catapult Public and Investor Relations’ blog suggested, networking can also be done on social media. Using social media to engage and connect with people in the industry, from LinkedIn to Twitter, is also important. I agree with Kim Harrison of Cutting Edge PR when she wrote that networking should also occur internally. She may have been referring to a company, but I think it also applies to school. All my classmates and professors are all invaluable connections. I agree with PRSA that nothing can replace face-to-face communication when networking, but the other forms are useful as well.
I think networking and personal interaction will be a constant learning ground. If you’ve been out networking, what tips have you learned? What advice would you give new professionals?