Networking 101

This week, I attended a very informative event on the art of networking. I've lamented my difficulties with networking on this blog before. But as long as I want to succeed on the Hill and in politics—where networks are essential for success—I need to get as much insight and practice as I can now. I want to avoid rookie networking mistakes once I've made it to or near the top. Here are just a few tips that were given during the event:

1) Be confident: This one is basic. If you don't believe in you, why would anyone else believe in you? Everyone has something to offer. Both interns and CEOs offer information, experiences, etc that can be of use to others. My tendency was, and is, to always be like, "Oh no, I'm just a [intern, assistant, etc]." Who cares what your current position is! You are still a gatekeeper to information and contacts within that organization. Plus, even if you are an intern, there are high school and college students who can learn a lot from you.

2) Say your first AND last name, and mean it: I often break this rule, which is reminiscent of a Suze Orman adage. Assert yourself and you will be remembered.

3) Be a catalyst of connections: When you meet people in a room, introduce those folks to other people you know in the room. Same with information. If you know about a great event, pass it along to your networks. Eventually, folks will start coming to you as the person in the know. It's a rather cool place to be!

4) Keep track of your contacts: After an event, I always write information on the back of all of the business cards I've collected. Such info as where and when I met the person and key things that I learned about them may be helpful for a follow-up calls/emails.

5) Do be afraid to email or call: Remember to follow-up, especially if you way you will. A simple email saying "it was great to meet you. Can we meet for coffee to chat about XYZ" will suffice. Remember that even super-busy folks are often willing to take time out of their schedules to help out others. Everyone remembers what it was like to start-out and how important key contacts and advice was to them. It may take weeks or months for them to schedule a meeting. But, they'll be flattered that you sought them out as a "guru" in the field/industry. Be persistent (without being rude) because it is worth it.  At the same time, don't waste their time. Be prepared and focused in your questions and requests.

6) Nurture your contacts: A simple email update every once in a while is great. Emails are particularly important when you have success (i.e., you get the job, finalize a project, etc). Who doesn't like to know that they were part of someone else's success?

7) Don't forget about your non-professional groups and networks: Book club members, kickball teammates, roommates, and alumni all have something to share.

8) It's not always about work: Those same networks that help you succeed at work can also be helpful in learning about other, non-professional ventures (e.g., a good tailor, realtor, book club, bar, etc).

So with this new wealth of knowledge, I have pledged to do a better job of building, nurturing, and diversify my network on and beyond the Hill. A Hill buddy has already offered to team-up with me in going to Hill receptions. Eventually, we'll get enough practice and be able to work rooms and cultivate contacts like the pros.

1 comment:

Organica said...

Awesome tips! I will be sure to use them.

Can I go to some Hill receptions with you over the summer? :) Or are they typically for staff only?