Networking. That word that strikes fear in the hearts of many. Networking is like exercise – some people are naturally active, while for others it’s a chore. Even if networking is something you dread, afterward you’ll feel energized and proud of stepping out of your comfort zone. At it’s core, networking can be defined as conversation(s) that lead to new connections and are (hopefully) mutually beneficial. Whether you’re looking for a new job, or simply trying to meet new people in your line of work, you won’t get very far without networking.
Here are some tips that we hope will ease your mind when it comes to networking:
- Set a goal and make a routine. First, decide what you hope to get out of networking. It is finding a future mentor? Is it a forming a connection at an organization you’re dying to work for? Setting a goal will help you decide on the best events to attend and approach to take. Second, decide how often you would like to attend networking events. If you’re just checking in periodically to make new connections, monthly might suffice. If you’re actively job hunting, biweekly might be better.
- Prepare yourself. Jot down a few conversation starters. Have your elevator pitch prepared. Read the news. (The ConnectVA Weekly Update is a great way to stay in the know!) If there is a published list of event attendees, research who is coming by looking them up on LinkedIn ahead of time. Don’t forget your business cards, and consider keeping some literature about your organization in your car, if not on hand, to pass along to new connections.
- Bring a friend. Is the prospect of going to an event where you don’t know anyone daunting? Bring a colleague! You can reap the benefits of networking together. However, don’t be tempted to spend the whole morning/afternoon/evening together. Give each other the encouragement to spread out and meet others at least periodically throughout the event. Is your manager attending with you? Ask him/her to introduce you to some of his/her connections.
- Hold yourself accountable and celebrate small wins. Attend paid events whenever possible. The investment you or your organization makes will motivate you to follow through and attend. Next, give yourself props for sticking with your goals. Even if you walk away having met just one new person, let that experience empower you to feel comfortable meeting two or three people next time.
- Keep the conversation going and pay it forward. If you meet someone you’d like to stay in touch with, be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn, and/or follow through with any plans you may have made to catch up for coffee. Make it a priority to check in periodically to see how they’re doing. Don’t ask for favors like a job reference without first investing your time in cultivating a relationship with that person.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary, or boring. ConnectVA’s Event Calendar is a great source of information about upcoming events of all kinds – including networking and professional development events. If you’re ready to put these tips into practice, join YNPN RVA at our next soirée – the Top 40 Under 40 Nonprofit Spotlight, next Wednesday, 11/18 at the Hippodrome Theater. We look forward to seeing you there!
YNPN RVA, powered by ConnectVA, is a movement powering young and early-career nonprofit professionals through professional development, networking, and social opportunities to positively impact the Greater Richmond area.