Networking 101

When you think of networking, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For some, networking is an exciting opportunity to meet new people and drive new connections. For others, the idea of networking with new people is a less-than-ideal, daunting thought. 

Regardless of where you stand on this scale, the numbers are clear – 85% of jobs are filled through networking (yes, you read that percentage correctly!). Stemming from years of job market changes and alternating hiring trends, networking is more important now than ever. 

So, how can you overcome the nerves that commonly accompany networking and make a great impression? How can you put yourself out there in today’s digital age and spotlight your expertise? 

We sat down with our Client Experience Director and networking extraordinaire, Kelly Gunderson, to answer these questions and help you make the networking experience more than a business card exchange. ⬇️

Step 1: Prepare For Success

Before starting your networking journey, the first and most helpful thing you can do is prepare, prepare, prepare! This is essential to help you feel more at ease with the process and take the last-minute frenzy out of your networking opportunity. 

With over 15 years of outreach expertise, Kelly’s tips and tricks to prepare for networking success include the following:

  1. Find networking events that spark your interest and align with your values. Many cities have industry-specific organizations that host regular events for the purpose of making connections, such as MnSearch, MIMA, The BrandLab, and TeamWomen in the Twin Cities.
  2. Wear an outfit that represents your personality and style, while also allowing you to feel comfortable, confident, and professional.
  3. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date so that your new connections can easily find your page, learn more about your experience, and add to your network.
  4. Plan your route. It’s best to arrive a few minutes early to start conversations with people as they arrive, rather than trying to jump into conversations that are already happening. 

By planning these steps out in advance, you can calm the nerves, show up as your authentic self, and reap the benefits of a successful networking event.

Step 2: Overcome the Networking Jitters

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or are new to your career, it is 100% normal to experience nerves when networking. In fact, the truth is that whether other professionals talk about it or not, you are not the only person at your networking event experiencing nerves. 

The good news? There are many proven tricks for combatting these jitters and putting your best foot forward. As Kelly recommends, the following tips will prepare you to knock your networking experience out of the park. 

  • Give yourself a pep talk. This might sound silly, but we mean it! Put on upbeat music, treat yourself to something that brings you joy, and tell yourself that you have what it takes to be successful. 
  • Step into a power pose (yes, we mean this too!). Power posing is a unique but effective way to show up for yourself, put your mind at ease, and build confidence before stress-inducing events. And, while you’re at it, try doing a few basic stretches to hone in on your confidence!
  • Breathe. Take a few deep breaths, and reflect on the purpose of your networking endeavor.  
  • Arrive with a smile. The power of a smile is contagious, and by arriving with a genuine smile, you’ll have other professionals approaching you to start a conversation in no time.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. While this can be easier said than done, everyone is at your networking event for a reason, and it’s okay to laugh at yourself or the situation at hand! 

At the end of the day, remember that even the most distinguished, accomplished professionals feel nervous from time to time, too. By setting yourself up for a great networking event with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to expanding your connections and adding to the 79% of Americans fueling their career progression through networking.

Step 3: Start the Conversation

You’ve prepared and outlined your path to success, and now it’s time to start the conversation! While this may be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the process, the potential is endless when beginning a conversation with a new-to-you professional. 

Kelly’s greatest tip is to do just that: begin the conversation! Find another attendee that you’d like to talk to, and strike up a conversation with them. Not only will this show a great deal of confidence to other attendees, but it can help calm your nerves and create a trusted go-to at your networking event. 

If you’re unsure of where to start, consider beginning your conversation by asking other professionals about themselves. As humans, it’s in our nature to enjoy talking about our own experiences, backgrounds, and knowledge. Tap into this and discover what makes other professionals so successful, how they’ve gotten to the place they are now, and what their goals for the future are. 

If this conversation starter leaves you hungry for more, share about common interests in your field, new discoveries within your industry, your connection to the networking event host, or upcoming events you have on your calendar. 

Taking the first step can be scary, but you are ready and have the skills to succeed!

Step 4: Follow Up

The last, but certainly not least, step to a great networking experience is to follow up. This is one of the most essential steps to creating long-term relationships, staying ahead of future opportunities, and nurturing a strong foundation of professionals to move forward with. 

With over 930 million registered professionals using the platform, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools to start with. If you’re unable to connect on the spot, always be sure to write down the first and last names of those that you meet so that you’re able to connect later on. 

Within your connection request, be sure to address your new connection by their name and call out the event where you met them. As Kelly recommends, the following sample message is a starting point, which can (and should!) be customized based on your conversation: 

“Hi <Name>! It was wonderful to meet with you at <Event Name>. I would appreciate being added to your network so that we can continue connecting in the future. Thank you!”

Just like that, your network is sure to be filled with accomplished industry professionals in little time – a great reward for the time and effort you dedicated to your networking journey!

Step 5: Practice

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect! Now that you’ve mastered the art of networking, it’s time to put your skills to use. Join Celarity on June 21st for our second-annual Summer Social event, where we’ll bring together Marketing, Creative, and Digital professionals from across the Twin Cities. Reserve your spot today to join us at our hottest event of the summer!

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