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Networking 101

Networking can seem like an overwhelming prospect. But it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it helps to start at the beginning, with a few basics. So let’s do that.

  • Networking defined: Networking is not simply an exchange of business cards at a random event. And it certainly isn’t about bragging about your career or begging for help from people you barely know. Networking is a game of give and take—it’s all about relationship-building.
  • An ongoing process: “One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they stop networking once they get their job,” says Diane Darling of Effective Networking. A network is something  you have in place—it’s valuable for getting professional development, and when you’re looking for a new position. But whenever you need your network, that’s not the time to start building one. So start building now.
  • Strike up a conversation. Networking is essentially a pleasant conversation, which leads to a new member of your network. Start with a smile. And try these simple conversation starters: 
  1. "Hello, my name is...." It can be intimidating to approach a group or a person you don’t know, but you’ll be surprised what could happen if you just introduce yourself. Follow up your introduction with an easy-to-answer question like: "What brings you here tonight?"
  2. "I love your [shoes/shirt/necktie]." It is surprising how quickly people drop their guard when they are complemented. Even if it is not in a networking setting, you may pick up a new member of your network by simply saying, "That was an interesting presentation you just gave" or "That's one of my favorite books you're reading."

Need some more tips?

  • Create personal business cards.
  • Share your passions/hobbies.
  • Reach out with curiosity. Contact interesting people and see where the relationship goes.
  • Attend networking events in your career field.
  • Use Key Club alumni as a resource. For instance, network in the LinkedIn Group.
Networking 101
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