Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I've had several friends approach me for tips on networking. While it's hard for me to put my specific tips or networking style into writing, since it's more of an in-person thing, I figured I would give it my best shot.

First of all, decide the reason for your desire to network. Are you doing it just to expand your professional circle, or are you trying to find your next job? The urgency of your situation might determine how aggressive you want your networking approach to be. I always prefer low-pressure networking, when I have a job that I like and I'm just exploring to meet like-minded people and get some new perspectives. Understanding your reason for networking will allow you to choose an event that may be worth your time.

Find out if anyone you know is in the area of the event. I sent out an email yesterday to a couple of my former coworkers and was lucky enough to run into one at the local coffee shop. It made my day to see her smiling face and we caught up quickly before she began her workday and I began mine. Thanks for the coffee! 

Take time to enjoy your surroundings, no matter how briefly. I love walking through the streets of Cambridge, observing the interesting discussions going on around me and adding new books to my reading list at the MIT Coop.

I attended a networking event this morning, the Boston Tech breakfast.

It was my first time attending the event, and I heard some really interesting new business ideas, and also met some fascinating people. I also used the opportunity to invite along an existing colleague in my network, and he was happy that he made time for the event too.

If you are attending an event with a specific objective, such as a job search, it can be helpful to do a search of the attendee list and pick out a few different people you hope to meet at the event. It doesn't hurt to contact these people in advance, or follow up with them after the event if you don't have the opportunity during.

Make sure to listen attentively during the event, rather than following distractions on your smartphone. The presenter at this morning's events gave attendees the opportunity to speak about their situation, and one woman mentioned that she was looking for a program management job. I followed up with her after the presentations since she is in my field. We had a really interesting conversation about the PMP certification, lean six Sigma, and bridging the gap between technical and business-minded people. I was able to pass on a couple of resume and interviewing tips that I hope will be helpful in her job search.

Smile! Be open to any opportunity to meet someone new. While waiting to speak to the organizer of the event to see if I could help him to ask my company to sponsor an upcoming tech breakfast, I met a person from the Swiss Consulate who is looking to support new startups. We had a fun conversation, and I got to practice my French to boot.

If you are typically a shy introvert, give yourself a little pep talk before you enter the meeting. Then fake an extroverted personality until you make it.

See if you can connect with someone by trying to find a shared interest. Ask questions about the person, such as why they attended the event. People love to talk about themselves, so listen with attentiveness and see what you find in common. 

Many times, these small conversations at networking events don't lead to anything, but that is missing the point. I always find them engaging and inspiring. It's an excellent way to stay involved in my field and meet new people. 

I love to deviate from my routine and try something new, or take the chance to revisit something I enjoy. Today I had an excellent lunch at Penang, which I rarely get the opportunity to because my family doesn't enjoy Malaysian food. While the lunch or networking event by themselves don't necessarily equate to higher productivity, I always come away with a new idea or two. Today I found out about a cool new whiteboarding app startup I'm going to try to beta test with my team. I feel like a change of scenery and new experiences gained from networking really enhance my life and expand my horizons, both personally and professionally.

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