4 Ways to Network with Purpose
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Keep in mind that we are always networking, intentionally or not, every interaction with someone is a networking opportunity and an interview, no matter how brief.
Here are some tips to network with a purpose
Be a good listener
Most people feel at least somewhat self-conscious when they walk into a room and don’t know anyone there. What will we talk about? Am I going to stand all alone for this entire event? Will I have anything in common with anyone? Bravo to you for even showing up! That really is half the battle.
I really like this quote that says, “In your 20’s and 30’s, you worry about what other people think. In your 40’s and 50’s you stop worrying about what other people think. Finally in your 60’s and 70’s, you realize they were never thinking about you in the first place!” because it can take some of the pressure off to be perfect or ask the perfect questions, etc.
Maya Angelou said something along the lines of, people might not remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel. Take the pressure off yourself and come up with thoughtful questions you can ask others about themselves. If you are in the market for a new job, ask questions about your new contact’s role. Think about what matters to you in a job. Are you social? Do you like numbers? Do you enjoy learning? What else is important to you? Here are some examples:
Have some universal themes/topics
When you are at a networking event, of course you want to find some common ground. I remember this one event I attended with a smile. I was standing at the table trying to figure out some food that wasn’t marked. Long story short, I asked the person in front of me if she knew what that was, it was melted butter in case you are wondering. We were right near the waffles which led her to talk about waffles and living in Belgium. Boom. We made a connection because I had lived overseas for 6 years. You never know how you will reach that connection so you may have to dig around a little bit until you find it.
Here are some topics to give you a start:
Find out how you can help
Long ago, when I had just graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in French and moved back to New Mexico where I grew up, well, between you and me, and probably not too surprisingly, I was feeling more than bummed out. The internet was not invented* and in order to find a job, I had to look through the very meager classified ads or I had to go to the library to look through out of state white and yellow phone book pages. Yes. This is how we used to find out information and no, it was not very effective especially when I personally had no idea what I was looking for in the first place. (*And yes, I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow even in the summer-haha.) Anyway, all of this to say, I was feeling really depressed but decided to go to a French conversation group. It was pouring rain, of course GPS hadn’t been invented either so I was stuck with a map feeling less and less happy. I decided to power through and eventually, I made it to the group. We never know what decision will change our lives but this one changed mine and my family’s. I made 2 wonderful new friends that evening and I am still friends with both of them all of these years later as is my family. In fact, my parents just had dinner with one of them when they were both in Atlanta.
One friend is from Madagascar and was visiting her friend in New Mexico. Incredibly, her friend lived up the street from my parents. I offered to show her around since I wasn’t working at the time and we ended up having the best time.
Not every person you meet will become a lifelong friend, but you never know. It does happen.
Follow-up & stay in touch
If you meet people who are easy to talk to, you may want to stay in touch. Send them some information that may be useful. Let them know about some upcoming events that may be of interest. All relationships develop in stages so take it slowly.
You won’t become best friends with everyone you meet, of course, but it is nice to have a circle of professional connections. Stay in touch with people who have similar professions as you do. You never know where this will lead you.