The art of making friends and influencing people.
By Ursula Lauriston
With so much of our interaction being transferred online, some might wonder if networking even matters anymore. But the truth is, business is becoming increasingly relationship based. This means those able to communicate effectively, connect others and be connected are the ones with the most success.
So what exactly is networking? Networking is the process of exchanging information, resources, and support in a way that builds mutually beneficial relationships. It is teaching what you’re good at and learning new skills. Networking is NOT talking just to talk; only for extroverts, job hunters, or salespeople; and most importantly it is NOT optional.
Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you find yourself meeting new people:
Work the room (elevator, hallway, bathroom).
Realize that networking is something you do all the time, everywhere you go, with everyone you come in contact with. Make sure to put your best self forward at all times as you never know who will be your next great contact. Get to your venue early and get comfortable with the space around you.
Have a goal
Twenty Something’s, do not go to a networking event or function for the food or the booze– although that’s obviously a perk– if that’s your only goal it will come out in your actions. You must come up with a goal (even if it’s just a cover) in order to make the best of your networking experience. Some goals may be to make new business contacts, new friends, or find out new information about possible job openings. Your goals will dictate your conversation. So if you want great conversation, make clear goals.
First impressions are everything. Don’t be afraid to join a circle or make the first move when introducing yourself. I recently took a good friend of mine who’s starting a wedding planning business out to an event because she wanted to hone her networking skills. I threw her into a conversation and she happened to find her very first bride in that first conversation!
The Elevator speech
Every Twenty Something needs a quick 30 second pitch that sums up who they are, what they’re doing, and what they’re goals are. Having the elevator speech in mind keeps you from being tongue-tied if caught off guard. It’s a great starting point so the rest of the conversation can flow naturally.
Answering the BIG question
“What do you do” is one of the most common questions asked in our Nation’s Capitol. But no matter how common, some people truly hate asking or answering that question. One thing we all need to keep in mind is that what we do does not define who we are, it is however an intricate part of our lives.
This question is tougher for those who recently lost their jobs or just graduated. I don’t think there’s really a bad way to answer this question as long as you don’t say, “I’m unemployed,” or “I’m just an intern.” This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Say something more confident like “I’m working on immigration policy in the Office of Congresswoman Clark.” And if you’re unemployed, talk about your goals– say, “After working on the Hill, I’m interested in transitioning into more specialized work in education policy.
If you fail to follow up with the people you’ve met, then you might as well never have met the person. Because nurturing the relationship is the whole point of networking. Send a follow up email the next business day. You don’t have to make plans to connect with the person in the near future unless you actually need to. Just reach out so both parties have updated contact information. Sample email:
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Washington Life cocktail party last night. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. Enjoy your weekend.
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Washington Life cocktail party. I would love to continue our conversation about freelance writing opportunities. Please let me know your availability for the next two weeks. I look forward to catching up.
Another way to keep the conversation going with your contacts is to reach out to them on their birthday or holidays. This is a great opportunity to see what they’re up to. Every Twenty Something must master the art of networking if we want to advance our careers, build our brand, and be successful. So go get em’ Twenty Somethings!
Ursula Lauriston is the author of Twenty Something, a social diary blog where she sounds off weekly on dating, D.C nightlife and events, career etiquette, and more. During the day, Ursula stays in step with the pulse of DC with her work as a Deputy Press Secretary on Capitol Hill. Follow her on twitter @urdiggy.