By: Brianna Owens, IMPACT Intern
An African Proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” This is the motive behind networking, which I believe to be the key to advancing oneself in your given profession. It involves building professional relationships with others that may not have had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. The goal for most networkers is to connect with people who have achieved the what they are trying to achieve in their respective careers.
Recently, IMPACT hosted its annual IMPACT Interns of Color Networking Reception, which allowed interns from various offices and organizations to encounter many people with different occupations and interests. Attendees had the opportunity to network and pursue relationships with a plethora of young professionals in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Keep in mind that networking is a skill, and, like any skill, it comes easier to some than others. If this, or any other, networking opportunity did not go so well for you, no worries! I am here to help. Here is a checklist that will help guide you and ensure that you make connections before the networking event is over:
1. Are you dressed accordingly? Dress the part. Do not arrive in jeans if the invitation says the attire is “business casual.”
2. Do you have any goals in mind? In order for networking to aid you in reaching your goals, you must know what they are so you can convey that to others.
3. Do you have common work-related questions to spark conversation? The questions can be random; you would be surprised at how simple questions can launch a conversation. However, you should always start with an introduction followed by the question “What is your name?”
4. Are you prepared for any and every question? Rehearse your elevator pitch. You need to be able to sell yourself. Your pitch need not be long-winded; it needs to be an attention-grabber.
5. Have you planned to arrive on time? It is hard to convince someone of your work ethic when you come into an event 15 minutes late. That is a no-no.
6. Are you showing those beautiful teeth? Most of us are naturally friendly and have friendly faces, but for those of us on the more nonchalant side, SMILE. No one wants to approach someone who does not look approachable.
7. Are you on the playing field? Networking guru, Dr. Ivan Misner said, “Be visible. Networking is a contact sport! You have to get out and connect with people.” The Interns of Color Reception had many people in attendance; most of them were standing, walking around, and actively conversing with others. In situations like this one, you need to put yourself in the mix; do not sit on the sideline tweeting, texting, or posting videos on Instagram while networks are right in front of you!
8. Have you thought about how you can help another person as opposed to what others can do for you? Networking is not all about what you want. When establishing a relationship, think of what the other person wants. Any good relationship is a two-way street; do not just ask, but also offer.
9. Are you being genuine? DO NOT pretend to listen to what the other person is saying, say you are going to do something and not deliver, or pretend to be someone you are not. If you know you cannot commit to something, do not say otherwise. You might think it makes you look bad to tell someone “No” for whatever reason, but it makes you look worse to say, “Yes” and not deliver.
10. Did you get the digits (or letters if it’s an email)? Get contact information. Ask that person for an email or phone number; you want to be able to get in contact with them after that night. Let them know that you will be in contact with them in the near future. DO NOT WAIT A YEAR BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY DO IT!
If you have followed all the tips, I’m sure your night was successful. Congratulations on your new connections! Now, here’s how to keep them:
● Follow-up. This is the age of technology, so you can do this by email or social network if you must, but do not underestimate the power of a phone call. Remind the person of who you are, briefly recap what was talked about, and let the conversation flow from there.
● Maintain the connection. Networking is useless if you allow the people you connect with to forget who you are.
● Attend more networking events. Networking requires consistency; you never stop working toward establishing connections.
● Practice. The more you do something, the better you get at it. Networking is a skill that you have to constantly work at before it becomes second nature to you. Keep in mind, however, that you can never be too good at something, so your work is never done.