Sunday, April 22, 2007

Five Tips For Networking...

As I am rapidly approaching graduation, I'm realizing that I'm a lot better at networking than I was when I entered college four years ago. I used to break out in a sweat at the thought of chatting up people I didn't know, trying to get them to remember me in the hopes that one day our paths would cross again and they would think highly enough of me to help me out in some way.

But, after a few conferences and a high-profile internship under my belt, I feel a lot more confident and I've learned a lot. Some are really obvious, but others it took me a while to learn.
I'm happy to share them with you.

1) Know what you want to do and have it ready for anyone who asks. For many years I made the mistake of telling people I wanted a mentor and would they be willing to fill that role. Most people said sure, they'd be happy to, but we'd fall out of contact and I'd end up being borderline annoying trying to figure out why they didn't have time for the type of relationship I wanted. I realized I fared much better with people when I told them my goals and how I wanted to make them happen. Then they were much more interested in helping me achieve my goals when they knew I wasn't just leaning on them for support.

2) Always, always, always smile and offer a sincere compliment when approaching someone. Now, don't say you like their hair or shoes if you really think they are rather ugly. But for women, this tactic has worked 99% of the time for me. If I'm in a situation, I usually break the ice with women by complimenting them on their shoes. Being the shoe junkie that I am, it leads to a full blown conversation and we end up laughing at our mutual obsession.

3) Look for different ways to network, not just in person. I find that in-person networking is most effective, but when you purely just want to get your name out there, you gotta do it the best way you can. Check MySpace for people you admire. Practically EVERYONE has a MySpace page and you can learn tidbits about people you didn't know and wouldn't have the opportunity to ask within the first five minutes of meeting someone. Leave them a comment or send them a message. Friend them. Make all these social networking sites work for you.

4) Be curious. If you are an artist, find an artist that you like and contact them. If you are a entrepreneur, seek out someone who built their own company from scratch and ask them how they did it. People like talking about themselves and if given the opportunity, they will do so, not realizing that they are actually helping you.

5) Once you do make a contact, follow up with them. I met a journalist in Atlanta during the NABJ convention and she gave me email so I could touch base with her later. A couple months later I saw her byline in Essence and shot her an email saying that I read her latest article and was very impressed. Things like that make a difference.

So there you go. Four years of trial and error all laid out here for you to enjoy. Feel free to add your own tip in the comments.

1 comment:

laura said...

Good Post!!!