Mastering the Art of Effective Networking

Achieving Goals, Career Discovery, Career Enrichment, Career Transitions, Confidence
02/19/24 - Amy Yandell
networking and meeting people

The old adage of “it’s all about who you know” was thrown out the window a while ago. Now, it’s all about “who you can GET to know,” which means you have control over opening up doors for yourself.

Work trends right now are telling us people are yearning for connection and real human interaction. In fact, according to SHRM, “about 8 out of 10 employees (82 percent) say they have felt lonely at work.” As work-from-home continues to remain a trend, it is increasingly important to seek out ways to authentically build relationships with others.

This isn’t just professional networking tips and tricks, but a holistic approach for how to change your thinking so you can get better at networking. We’ll talk not only about how to network better, with tips for beginners, but also how you can take your professional networking to the next level.

Don’t worry if you currently hate networking. In this article we’ll share not just how to network effectively, but also some important mindset adjustments you can make to both enjoy the process more and also find a more effective way to go about it.

network with coworkers

Why Is networking important?

Networking is essential to meeting new people who have what you want or are in the spaces you want to be in. It’s also critical to develop not only your connections to other professionals but also enhance your own learning and knowledge base.

Advance your career

Valuable connections are more effective than any other technique or practice to move closer to your own professional success, gain clarity on your career path, and land the job you desire. It’s also one of the best ways to access the “hidden job market” and learn about job leads and new opportunities that may not be posted publicly.

The fact is, an ongoing approach to networking can have a meaningful impact on your long-term career growth.

Advance your knowledge

Networking isn’t just about connecting with others to get a leg up on a new job. Networking is very much about:

  • doing your research to learn about new fields, and other peoples’ paths and experiences
  • discerning the working culture at a company or industry you’re passionate about
  • building your professional community and making authentic connections to other passionate people

Searching the internet will only get you so far in understanding trends in certain industries. Staying up to date requires you speak to real people doing the real work you’re interested in learning about. This helps you determine what skills you could grow and plug into to reach your career goals. Learning how to network successfully can grow your connections to other professionals, your knowledge of the job market, your industry of interest, and what trends are going to help you get where you ultimately want to go.

industry events

Why does networking get a bad rap?

Most people have an initial “ick” response when networking is suggested to help advance their career, and some people flat out hate the idea of networking. We get it!

Of course, if your vision of networking is walking into a crowded event full of people in suits handing out business cards and making cringy small talk, it’s understandable why you aren’t interested in that.

Let’s turn to how you can learn to network effectively in ways that match your values and authentic self that feels less that about personal gain only and more about building true connections with others.

networking and meeting people

How to network effectively

When we look for ways to expand our network, we want to focus on building relationships, not just through formal networking events, and incorporate some networking advice into our daily lives, regardless of whether we’re on the job market or not. These are muscles and skills you can develop over time!  Here are some tips on how to network step-by-step:

  • Change your mindset.
  • Starting where you are: at work.
  • Attend industry events.
  • Prepare for potential encounters.
  • Get curious.
  • Use technology to your advantage.

Change your mindset

The first step in taking a new approach to networking is to change your mindset. Instead of networking representing a focus on a one-sided agenda to drive your personal gain only, try shifting your thinking to these three simple truths about networking that are adopted by the most effective networkers:

  1. Networking is a two-way street and mutually beneficial
  2. Networking is simply about meeting people you find interesting and talking to them
  3. Networking is the best way to build relationships, potentially make new friends, and connect with the personhood of other professionals
talking with colleagues

Start at work

One of the best ways to meet people is to begin with those closest to you professionally: your work colleagues. Not sure where to start? Here are our tips:

Learn the business

First, focus on learning about the landscape of roles and jobs at your company who spend all their time, or at least some of their time, doing work that you want to learn more about. Because you have a shared work place, it will be easier to meet people, connect, and further build relationships.

advance your career

Leverage Slack, Teams, and other group-chat tools

Second, use your shared internal communication channels to reach out to initiate conversations and get to know your colleagues.

An introductory ask might look as simple as a Teams message to a colleague you’d like to get to know that says, “I noticed that our work intersects quite a bit and I’d like to learn more about the full scope of what you do and who you partner with across our company. Do you have time for a Zoom coffee so I can learn more about your work?”

Stay open-minded

Third, you never know when just the right person will pop up in your time at work and you suddenly have the opportunity to connect, learn something new, and share about your own professional goals and accomplishments. Be on the lookout for opportunities so you don’t miss the chance to connect with someone new!

industry events and conferences

Attend industry events

Attending events is one of the most traditional ways we think about networking, and industry events do serve as great ways to meet people.

Industry events, whether in your current industry or a new industry of interest, provide a similar situation to meet people as at work because you already have something in common with the people there.

Think outside of the box when it comes to finding industry events for meeting new people (including potential clients) and making new connections.

In addition to traditional industry networking events, seek out opportunities to attend online learning events, workshops, listening sessions, new product launch events, focus groups, leadership development events, and recruiter info sessions.

If you’re worried about having to sit in a room and make small talk for an hour in order to network, reduce some barriers to connecting by selecting opportunities that have a learning and/or information sharing component so your shared time is spent learning or gathering information. Then, you can find opportunities in between the learning to meet people in small windows of time that may feel more manageable.

networking event

Prepare, prepare, prepare

If you’re still feeling uncomfortable, preparation is key. Here are a few of our favorite tips to help yourself feel more comfortable when you’re at networking events. You don’t have to walk into an opportunity to connect feeling unprepared!

Here are 4 key successful networking tips with accompanying prep actions:

1. Do your research

  • Know who else will be present at this opportunity by viewing the RSVP list, asking the organizers, or researching the organization
  • Focus on 3-4 people you’d like to intentionally seek out and connect with
  • Identify what you’d like to learn from them or ask them
networking expands your knowledge

2. Brainstorm with unique conversation starters

  • Is there a new industry trend you’d like to get some feedback on?
  • Is there a new restaurant in your shared area that you’d like to highlight?
  • Is there an especially interesting cocktail you’ve discovered at the event that you want to tell people about?
  • Is there a startup company in your industry that has you excited about new directions for products that entice you?

3. Practice your “elevator pitch”

  • Your elevator pitch is contextual to the folks you are among in the given moment
  • What 2 things are important for people to know about you when they meet you at this event?

4. Make it easy to follow up

  • Have a card (physical or digital) to connect quickly with others
  • Use the QR code feature in the LinkedIn app to connect on the platform right there in the moment
  • After you leave the event, give yourself 5 minutes to jot down the names of people you want to follow up with any notes about your conversations. Jot it down while it’s still fresh!
networking at work

Get curious

The best tips on how to make a connection, for me, always begins with curiosity and not skepticism.

People tend to be genuinely interested in making connections and relationship building, even if it makes us anxious or nervous.

Center your experience on being open to listen, stay focused on the person in front of you, and be truly present in your conversations. This approach will most always be mirrored back to you by sincere interest in having a great conversation.

By paying attention to the small details, actively engaging as a good listener, and focusing on learning and being curious, you’ll naturally make connections and be continuously engaging in effective networking strategies, even when you’re not solely focused on expanding your network.

Leading with curiosity means you don’t miss opportunities to meet other people because you’re listening for the extraordinary.

Use technology to your advantage

Once you begin to develop daily habits around expanding your network, social media platforms will inevitably play a role in staying in touch and making connections. These platforms provide opportunities for access to people and events that you might not otherwise have access to for making connections, learning about new jobs, or upskilling your current work.

Social media platforms also provide opportunities to find networking contacts and create an action plan to reach out regularly to connect. In addition, these platforms provide opportunities to write about your interests, passions, accomplishments, viewpoints for your network to interact with and get to know you more.

Get started

So, are you ready to start networking? Remember, to build relationships with other people is a very natural part of being human, even when it doesn’t feel that way! Adopting a daily 15-minute routine around a handful of the tips and suggestions in this blog will consistently develop your own unique art form of expanding your network and learning from others.

Often, folks struggle just getting started with this process, and that’s where career coaching can come in handy. Partnering with a certified coach, well-versed in helping people uncover their strengths that can be leveraged to network, moves professionals past that stuck point of skepticism around networking to the flourishing world of ever-developing networks built through authentic connections.

Lead with your curiosity starting today, and book a free 30-minute consult with us to learn more about how our coaches can help you master the art of effective networking!

Amy Yandell Coach Headshot
Amy Yandell

Hi, I'm Amy, and I'm here to help you break free from the idea that you have to fit into someone else's definition of success. I believe that everyone has the power to define their own path and create a life that feels fulfilling and meaningful. Whether you're feeling stuck in your career, struggling to find your purpose, or just ready for a change, I'm here to help you navigate the journey with clarity, confidence, and a sense of purpose.

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