After dropping out of community college when I was 21, I managed to successfully wiggle my way from customer service agent (yes- they called us agents), living paycheck to paycheck in NYC, to doubling my paycheck while opening up a TON of opportunities for myself.
My secret? Networking.
It’s probably the most important thing you can do to up your professional game. Here are some ways you can level up your networking skills. Psst… don’t forget to pass on the knowledge to your fave vina!
UNDERSTAND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
To get the most out of your networking efforts, it’s important to acknowledge what kind of social environments work best for you. If you’re overstimulated or get lost in large crowds, start by networking online!
As much as I may seemingly gravitate towards large crowds and enjoy leading conversations, I find myself overstimulated by large crowds and so drained after networking events, that I literally cannot even. But by using platforms like LinkedIn or even Hey! VINA, I’m able to make professional connections on an individual basis.
NETWORK WITH A PURPOSE
Niche events are a great way to find people in a specific line of work to connect with. And if you’re looking for a job, maybe it makes sense to go to a networking event a few times a week. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to generally expand your network, maybe you can go to an event once a month with a wider range of professional types. Keep in mind your specific goal, and come up with a plan that fits that purpose!
#LADYBRAG TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Reminding yourself of what you can bring to the table (which is a lot, I’m sure!) will not only give you confidence when talking to professional connections, but will also give you something to chat about. Chances are at most networking events, people are looking for opportunities, whether that’s looking for a job or looking for an employee. You can instantly stand out by approaching these conversations in a different fashion by confidently talking about your achievements and showing off your professional skills.
HAVE SAMPLES OF YOUR WORK TO SHOW OFF
Along those lines, it wouldn’t hurt to bring a physical printed book of your work or an e-copy that you can show on an iPad (if it’s appropriate for the specific event or meeting). Know your audience and always be prepared with a copy of your portfolio and even an up-to-date resume so you can show off if the situation calls for it.
Follow up with everyone you meet, even if you don’t need anything specific. You can share relevant links and opportunities that they may be interested in, in the hopes they’ll reciprocate in the future. Even if you don’t have anything to offer right away, it’s still nice to email or call your new connection to thank them for their time and chat a bit!
I hope these tips are helpful! Do you have any networking tips to share? We’d love to hear them!
(Feature image via The Sorry Girls)