Networking is crucial in discovering new opportunities and connecting with great people. Key word connecting. It’s important to make connections with people all the time so that when you actually need them or their skill set, you have already established a relationship, allowing your network to feel comfortable helping and sharing their information with you.
Think of networking as a way to sell yourself and all your fabulousness, even if you’re not looking for a buyer. Sell yourself anyway so that when you are looking for a new job, a new employee, startup advice, funding knowledge, etc, you have a roster of established professionals that you’ve already built a connection with, putting you 10 steps ahead of your peers.
So how do you prepare for your next networking event? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to making lasting connections in no time.
Dress to impress!!! That’s a given, right? Should be. Aside from feeling your most confident self when you’re well put together, you radiate poise letting others know what you want to get out of the event. I love a good blazer, it takes any outfit up a level of sophistication. You could be wearing jeans, dress, skirt, shorts even, and a blazer makes you polished like no other. Guys, this goes for you too!
- Smile. A smile makes you more approachable. People will want to talk to you and find out more about you when they see a professional smile and demeanor.
- Bring your ammo. Make it a habit to carry business cards and any other important details about you and your professional work that will help others learn more about you. This also makes it easier for people to connect with you after the event is over. If you don’t have cards yet, create your own. Moo is my favorite supplier! They make designing and ordering business cards fun and easy. Bonus- their customer service is off the charts and their quality is outrageously gorgeous. (Do you have my card?!) If you have a website or online portfolio, be sure to include that info on your cards. Remember, you’re selling yourself. You never know when that random connection you met will need your expertise.
Find the events that cater to your goals. Networking comes in all shapes and sizes. If you are looking for meaningful connections to advance your career, be sure you’re attending events geared toward that. If you are looking to meet new friends, search accordingly. Check out the reviews from past events and make sure people are satisfied with the results. Ask your friends which events they have gone to and how it fit their needs. Read some great blogs on networking and hope they give you recommendations.
Here are a few of my favorite networking communities and events.
IVY is one of my favorites as they have a great community of members and they bring in strong speakers to listen to and learn from. Their About page says it all for me; “IVY fuels inspiration, ignites minds and sparks world-changing collaborations.” I’m obviously working toward changing the world, one shirt dress at a time, so this is a great fit. I met Melanie Whelan, the CEO of SoulCycle at one of their events and was wildly inspired by her story and drive. Their events make you want to run to your office and start brainstorming your next Billion dollar idea.
NYC Fashion Connect is geared specifically to fashion. Their homepage says, “its mission is to help generate connections that spark business opportunities, inspire innovation and drive growth in the fashion sector.” Organized by Saddlerock Advisors, their goal is to help entrepreneurs attract funding. They start with a 30 minute mingling session combined with a delicious spread of fresh cheeses, vegetable crudité, skewers, wine and more. The keynote speaker follows that, usually with an intriguing story and lesson to bring to the table. Then there are 3 presenting companies that tell their story. Whether it’s a connection you’re looking for or a lesson to take away from successful veterans, Fashion Connect delivers.
Six Degrees Society is one of my newest favorites. I was introduced to the Founder, Emily Merrell, through a dear friend of mine and another savvy business woman. Emily’s approach caters to women and consists of “a collective of curious hustlers.” I just love that! At my first Six Degrees event, I met people that I’m in touch with to this day and that I truly believe are game-changing women. The site says it best, “we help our tribe of dreamers and doers stretch their skills, challenge their minds and stir their creativity with out of the box programming. Events range from expert panels, 101 events and hands-on workshops and every gathering includes speed networking.” I think Emily was brilliant in bringing the speed-dating idea to the networking arena. She makes it fun, exciting and fulfilling!
To all my dreamers and world-changers, I hope you enjoyed this. Go chase your dreams and I’ll catch you at the next event.
A recent networking event I attended at NYU.