Networking is about sharing information and serves as an avenue to create long-term relationships with mutual benefits. Continue reading to discover the benefits of networking and 24 networking tips you can implement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we interact with others—from trying to recognize people behind face masks to that awkward moment of not knowing if you should greet others with an elbow bump or hug. As the world begins to reopen and individuals decide their comfort level with in-person events and meetups, we see a resurge in networking.
The adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is widely accepted as truth. Networking allows you to exchange ideas, can grow your self-confidence, and helps you develop new relationships. We constantly hear that networking is necessary, but how do you start to network and meet new people in this hybrid (online and in-real-life) world?
Here, professionals from Milwaukee share 24 tips on how to successfully network online and in-real-life throughout the pandemic.
What to do When Networking?
1. Be the First Person to Say Hello
As you navigate between in-person and virtual meetings, be present and be vocal. A lot of excellent connections start with a simple “Hey .” This networking tip is something you can do everywhere you go.
2. Arrive Early to Events and Video Calls
Usually, the host/panelist/meeting organizer will be there before everyone else (at the event or on the call. For in-person events, arriving early allows you to choose the best seat and network with the organizers or other attendees before the event starts. You might be let into the meeting early and get one-on-one time with the presenters for virtual meetings. This is a great time to make a lasting impression.
Bonus: Sometimes, there are door prizes for the people who show up first.
3. Dress with Intention
First impressions are lasting impressions. First, see if there is a preferred dress code for the event (formal, business, business casual, casual, relaxed, etc.), then use this opportunity to showcase your style and personality.
Bonus: Use a lapel pin, bracelet, or another accessory as a conversation piece—the more unique, the better. Use fashion as a tool to have people come to you. Many people walk up and ask, “what’s that?” or comment, “I like your glasses or bracelet.”
4. Talk About Things other than Work or Business
Yes, you are a professional and want to tell more people about your accomplishments, products, or services. However, everyone will lead with what they do. Instead, I want you to be different and tell people who you are, a fun fact, a recent funny story, or something that showcases your personality. Leave a unique and lasting impression.
5. Give, Give, Give … Lead with Value
After speaking with a new connection, flip the script and ask what you can do for them instead of asking them for something. Maybe you can make a new introduction to one of your contacts, share an upcoming opportunity, or direct them to a resource.
6. Networking with Individuals Who Do Not Look Like You
Naturally, we gravitate toward people who look like us, and I am all for strengthening your connections within your own race, age group, gender identity, and ethnicity. Continue to do this! In addition, make an effort to connect with one person different from you. You never know how diversifying your network will impact you.
7. Listen More than You Speak
This is simple but powerful. People love to talk about themselves. Active listening is a skill and makes for a powerful introduction. It displays interest and enthusiasm when you allow the other person to complete their thoughts and ask questions for a deeper understanding. It leaves the person feeling seen and understood.
8. Get Their Contact Information for Future Follow up
If the connection is going well, ask them if the two of you can stay connected. If they agree, ask them their preferred method of communication (call, email, text, LinkedIn, etc.). Most people have a friendly conversation with no follow-up. However, you will follow up with your new connections.
What are New Ways to Expand Your Network?
9. Join a Coworking Space
Regardless of your profession, it’s easy to meet others in coworking spaces. Most coworking spaces have weekly or monthly events to encourage networking. These are communal workspaces with various people, from startups to freelancers.
10. Meet Someone New in Your Company or Industry
If you are working at a medium or large company, chances are that you have hundreds to thousands of coworkers. Take this opportunity to have in-person or virtual 30-minute coffee chats to get to know someone new. If you work for a smaller organization or for yourself, search for someone in or adjacent to your industry.
11. Join a Mastermind
There are hundreds of masterminds out there (primarily virtual ones). A mastermind is a group of like-minded people with similar interests. They provide a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability, and support to sharpen your personal or business skills.
12. Join a Professional Organization
Whether it is by career (National Society of Black Engineers Milwaukee Area Professionals), by a passion for social justice (African American Roundtable), by gender identity (Women’s Leadership Collaborative), or by interest (MENTOR Greater Milwaukee), there are a ton of organizations looking for people just like you. Joining a professional organization instantly gives you access to a new group of like-minded individuals.
13. Take a New Class
Taking a new class allows you to learn a new skill and connect with the other students/participants in the course. This can be a formal class at a community college or university or a recreational class like cooking or dance.
14. Sign-Up to Volunteer
Many nonprofit organizations are looking for volunteers. This can be long-term or for an upcoming event. There are usually team meetings before and after the event where you can meet other people. You also get the added benefit of doing something good for the community.
15. Join Your Alumni Network
Many pre-college programs (like TRIO’s Upward Bound), high schools, and colleges are looking for ways to stay connected with their respective alumni. These are usually the individuals planning the reunions and other networking events.
16. Pull Up in the DMs (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
A popular meme states, “Nobody supports you like a social media friend that you never met.” We are now more connected than ever, and people want to connect with you. If you have a connection, follower, or friend but only “kind of” know them, reach out and see if they are open to chatting or a virtual meeting.
More Networking Tips
17. Sign-up for Community Newsletters
Email is still the most common way to reach many people. From local magazines to Eventbrite, organizations usually send or publish a list of “Things to Do” or “Upcoming Events.”
18. Attend New Events
Signing up for the newsletters is one thing but attending the actual is another. We’ve all been there—signed up for an in-person event or Zoom meeting but forgot all about it. Be intentional about adding events to your calendar and attending them. Half of the networking battle is showing up.
19. Reach Out to Your Old Connections
Sometimes, we associate networking only with new connections. However, there are probably numerous amazing people in your existing network you have lost touch with. A “long time, no hear” email or invite is perfect for reconnecting and catching up with others.
20. Find a New Podcast and Join their Community
Podcasts are a fantastic way to learn new information or to be entertained. As the adoption of podcasts grows, many podcast hosts have created groups that you can join. In these communities, you can meet other people with a shared interest.
21. Create Your Own Community
If you are ambitious, you can create your own group. This can be a connection to a cause, a hobby, a book, or just about anything. This takes work because you will have to keep the group engaged, but it’s a great way to meet new people.
22. Find One Power Connector
Most people are on the spectrum from networking-adverse to power networkers. There will be a few power connectors working the room and collecting contact information at most events. Try to meet one of the power connectors and lead with value (see Tip 5).
23. Build a Personal Board of Directors
Sometimes, networking for the sake of networking can feel uninspired. If you need a goal to get the networking ball rolling, go in search of building a personal board of directors. A personal board of directors is like unofficial coaches and mentors to help you navigate your career or business endeavors.
24. Have Reinforcements (#Squad)
If you are shy or uncomfortable meeting new people, don’t do it alone. Have someone attend events with you. This takes off some of the pressure and allows you to network with a familiar face by your side.
What is Ambition Center MKE?
Ambition Center MKE is the most diverse and the northernmost private office and coworking space in Milwaukee—and the perfect place to network!
We provide coworking space and a multitude of business resources for Milwaukee's professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. We offer daily tours, and our team would love to meet you.
Book a tour today (here) and stay ambitious!
-Ambition Center Team