Dun Dun Dun… Networking!

Networking. It’s amazing how when 10 little letters are strung together just right, they can turn a grown man into a trembling toddler. Networking. Very few like to do it, but most of us know that, in the end, networking will be what makes or breaks us in this crazy game of life. After all, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” (anonymous), right?

Networking is an interesting beast. For some, it comes completely naturally. For most, they would rather get a tooth removed without Novocaine then subject themselves to this business-world style of torture. I feel your pain. There are days I would rather do absolutely anything other than walk into a room full of people, smile and walk up to a complete stranger to introduce myself. Sadly, networking doesn’t care what type of mood I’m in – when the opportunity arises, I better put on my smile and my name tag or miss an opportunity to make that one big connection that could really put it all together for me.

So, I feel your pain – networking can be hard, uncomfortable, awkward and time-consuming. But put on your big kid pants, because networking is here to stay.

The best thing I can say about networking is that it does become easier the more practice you have. The more times you network, the more people you know and the easier it is. Sure, the first room you walk into ready to network is going to be filled with strangers but gradually, the more events you attend, the less the room will be filled with strangers and the more it will be filled with people you have already met and can easily continue to build a relationship with.

I’m going to offer a few networking tips though I don’t consider myself any sort of professional networker. There are plenty of people who are far better than I at making their way through a room. I too, am still learning but I figured I might as well share what I know!!

1.) It won’t kill you. To date, I am still alive and well and have been to plenty of networking events. I have yet to completely embarrass myself, have anyone laugh at me (in a mean way) or do anything so horrible that I will not hear the end of it. If I can make it out alive and fairly unscathed, so can you.

2.) Learn from the pros. The pros became pros probably partly because of their natural ability to network but also because the practiced.  Don’t be intimidated by the pros – ask them for help.  These are the people you want to meet – people who can introduce you to more of the “right” people quickly.  If you see them at an event, say hello!  Then, go a step further and ask them if they can introduce you to someone you’ve been trying to get a hold of.  Chances are, they’d be happy to help.  It never hurts to just ask.

3.) Use your resources. Use LinkedIn, Facebook and the IGNITE Directory to help you make connections.  Remember your social media manners – not everyone is Facebook Friend appropriate but 99% are the perfect LinkedIn connection!  Start using your social media resources for something other than figuring out who’s engaged to who from high school.

4.) Attend Events. You can’t meet very many people from the comfort of your couch.  To meet more people, you actually have to be where the people are.  Sign up for networking events!  (And don’t forget – practically EVERY event from fundraiser to After Hours, IceHogs Game to Breakfast meeting is a networking opportunity).  Add these to your calendar right now:

  • Speed Networking (IGNITE Young Professionals) – January 28th – 11:30-1:00p.m. – Giovanni’s – $15 for Members/$20 for Non Members – includes lunch.  Pre-Register HERE
  • IGNITE After 5 at Kuma’s – February 17th – 5:30-7:30p.m. – FREE!!  Come and go as you please!

5. Smile and be gracious. Being nice is one of the biggest keys to being a good network.  The more comfortable people feel about coming and talking to you, the easier it will be to make connections.  Forget someone’s name?  Don’t worry – it happens to us all.  Kindly say “I’m sorry, I know we meet at the (INSERT EVENT HERE) but I seem to have forgotten your name.”  Chances are, they forgot yours too.  If someone is nervous about networking, make them feel at ease.  Your networking will pay off better than you can ever imagine because that person will never forget how well you treated her and how at ease you made her feel.  If it worked for Clinton, it can work for you.

So that’s that!!  The scary fears of networking I’m sure will still find you as you go to enter that room full of strangers, but don’t worry – you can do it!!  If I’m there, feel free to come say hello and I’ll lend a hand.

I hope to see you at the Speed Networking event this Friday.  If you’ve ever been nervous about networking – this is the event for you.  It’s the least awkward and fastest way you’ll ever meet people.  Trust me.  And at the end??  Lunch!!  What more could you ask for?

Happy Networking!!



~ by igniterockford on January 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “Dun Dun Dun… Networking!”

  1. Excellent advice!

  2. My additional handy tricks to expand on Caitlin’s post: have a few set questions you feel comfortable asking people. One that works great for me – Are you a Rockford native? Listen to their response, and ask questions from their response. Listening is huge…it’s not all about me 🙂

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