This networking tips article was originally written in 2017, but the content remains relevant for job seekers of this decade. We are reposting the blog as part of the PCDN Career Series
Crossposted with permission from Idealist.org
I have a confession: even though my role as a career coach has me talking frequently about the importance of networking, I do not love large networking events. You know the ones where you walk into a loud happy hour and have the urge to walk right back out?
I have, in fact, walked into one of these events, turned right back around, and took a walk around the block. During that short walk, I got into a different headspace so I could meet new people. Then I went back into the event, which ended up being one of the most enjoyable I have attended.
There is no doubt that it is important to develop a network, but there are more ways than just attending happy hours to expand your professional circle.
A few years ago, I saw networking described as a combination of curiosity and generosity. This is an ideal way to think of an informational interview. Whether you are connecting with someone over a cup of coffee, a phone call, or at their office, the first step is figuring out who you want to meet with and why.
Who is in your network (and in your network’s network)? Find out who works in the issue area of interest to you. Is there someone who already has your ideal role, or who might have a connection at the organization that you’re eyeing?
Once you have reached out and set up a meeting, you’ll want to prepare. Even though you are not going on a formal job interview, put your best professional self forward.
Be curious. Ask questions to learn more about the person:
Remember to always write a thank you note to let them know you appreciate their time.
Similarly, when someone asks you to share your experiences, say yes. Whether someone asks you about your profession, organization, school, or volunteering, share the stories of your successes and things you wish you knew before you started.
Be generous. Think about what you can offer:
There are many professional associations in the nonprofit and social impact space. Many are locally based, some are national, and many have regional chapters. If you’re a student, take advantage of student membership rates.
There are a number of ways to get involved in a professional association:
Some of the best people in your network are your past colleagues and clients, yet many people overlook them once they are no longer working in the same office.
Even if you say yes to all of these ways to expand your professional network, you still need to know how introduce yourself to a stranger at a large event. Be prepared for the first question that most people will ask when they meet you: tell me about yourself. You never know when you’ll need the skill and for what. From there, you’ll be on your way to better and more meaningful connections!
About the author: Surabhi Lal was formerly Career Services Director at NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service has guided hundreds of new and experienced professionals on their journeys to meaningful careers. She is now Chief of Impact Officer at Luminary and also a member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board
As she summarizes her experience: I am in the business of the future of work-for individuals, teams, and organizations. I do that as a speaker, consultant, and educator. Workplaces have an extraordinary opportunity to increase interaction among people of different backgrounds and work towards a more equitable society. Using my unique ability to see potential, invest in people, and design for performance, I curate and design experiences that encourage learning, growth, and community. My practice of work is grounded in authenticity, belonging, and community. My joy from making the unwritten rules in the world of work more explicit to create equity and guide others on their journey to career success.