What do you mean network?

What do you mean network?

It’s no secret that most alumni cite networking as the way they found their post-graduation jobs.  Networking is a nice word, but what does it mean exactly?

Via morganconsulting.com

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not the best networker.  I think part of that is because I am so content being alone in my own world, with my own thoughts.  I don’t feel awkward standing by myself when there are people talking in crowds around me.  However, that’s clearly not networking.  To help my poor non-networking self, I have come up with five rules that I have to follow to make the most of any networking event.

  1. Set a time limit.  If you know that you only have a solid 30-minutes or an hour of energy for networking in you then only make yourself stay for that long. Staying for an entire event can be draining, especially if you didn’t want to go in the first place.  Speak to the people you want to meet, shake a few hands, exchange a few cards and get out of there.
  2. Know the attendees.  If you have access to an RSVP list or knowledge about who will be in attendance, do your research.  Look at networking as an essential part of developing your career.  Do not waste time talking to people when you have no idea about what they do, their background or how they can fit into your network.  Yes, its nice to have polite conversations with people, but if you spend all night only having polite conversations, you left the “networking” out of “networking event.”  *pro tip* Make sure you are looking at LinkedIn profiles (private page viewing preferably, because seeing that someone viewed your profile and then you meet them the next day is a little creepy), and take advantage of the Google search, you can find some great conversation topics.
  3. Drink OR eat, but you can’t do both.  A drink in one hand and a plate of snacks in the other means there are no hands left for shaking (a networking staple).  So if you’re hungry and thirsty eat first, throw your plate away and then grab a drink. *pro tip* Open bar isn’t really open for you, this is business, not your best friend’s wedding, and one drink is your limit.
  4. Engage.  Stand-up, walk around and look like you want to be there.  You came to the networking event to be present and get to know people in your industry.  When all of a sudden, you’re standing by yourself or the conversation between you and someone else turns into awkward silence, shoot them the “well, it was nice to meet you,” and move on.  Try to make the most of your time.  *pro tip* Stay away from your friends, co-workers at the same level as you, classmates, roommates, suite mates, office mates, whatever, just know that the time you spend talking to people you already know/see everyday does not count as networking time.
  5. Be a human. No, the CEO of your company doesn’t want you to walk up to him and blurt out all of your credentials or hear your spiel about why you should be his replacement when he retires.  There are probably a million and two people accosting him at these things and you are just the annoying icing on the cake.  It’s alright to ask people how they are, what they are working on right now, and how they handled *insert amateur employee situation here* when they were in your position.  When they are all done talking about themselves, they will probably want to know more about you, your career goals and your interests.  *Look mom! I’m networking!*
via amazonas.com
Delisa Morris
Twitter - @morrisdelisa
LinkedIn - Delisa Morris

Delisa Morris is a current master's in PR candidate and third-year law student at Syracuse University. She studied political science and communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her bachelor's degree. Delisa is originally from Chicago.
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