Networking isn’t handing out a stack of business cards and asking people for a job.
It’s about making meaningful connections with people, and building lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Relationship-building is a skill. It can be learned, and improved with practice. Just like swimming or riding a bike, making new connections may feel awkward at first – but if you keep learning and practicing, you’ll find that you can get good at connecting with people.
New to networking? Start easy. Here are a few ways to start building your connection skills and your confidence.
- Professional women can connect via Lean In circles, like Palo Alto Lean In.
- Women in tech can meet like-minded peers at She’s Geeky, Women2.0, and Girl Geek Dinners. (Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners have been hosted by Google, Facebook, and more)
- Join Toastmasters. Great for building confidence and polishing communications skills.
- In the San Francisco Bay Area? Check out events we like.
At the event, make it a goal to connect with at least one person. That’s it. You don’t need to make twenty friends or leave with fifty business cards. Just make one genuine connection.
Smile and be approachable. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Practice feeling confident and comfortable.
As you speak with people, be truly interested. Find one thing you have in common with the other person. Think about how you can help them. What is one thing you can offer?
Follow up. Get the other person’s contact information, and make sure to follow up after the event. Send a short note, and tie it back to the connection you made – “It was great meeting you at Lean In. It was really interesting hearing about your work as a user experience designer at Apple. By the way, I saw this great article on user interfaces – thought you might like it. Enjoy!”
Stay connected every now and then so you don’t lose touch. LinkedIn is great for this. Remember what the other person needs or is interested in, and how you can help them.
Looking for more tips?
Keith Ferrazzi wrote a great book on networking, called Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.