Last week I mentioned one reader’s comment caught my attention. Here’s what Juliet asked:
Lisi, what is the best way to network? Especially if everyone in the room is richer/more accompished than you are? I’m about to go off to a fancy college and need to know how!
First, Juliet, you have to know what makes you valuable. To start, get the phrase “everyone in the room is richer/more accomplished than you” out of your noggin because people can sniff out insecurity and it smells like a dude’s locker room. Just because someone is rich doesn’t mean they’re better than you. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dorothy Parker: “If you want to know what God thinks about money, look at the people he gave it to.” Everyone in the room has value. Before you enter, figure out what yours is. Come from that place.
If your experience is limited, ask smart questions. People love talking about themselves. Ask them what they do, what they love about it, how they got into it… find common ground. “And there I was thinking I had the biggest collection of animal oil paintings. How can I see yours? Do you have a website or facebook page?”
Then follow up. Always follow up.
Make your goal to gather information. This is not the time to pitch yourself. No one wants to feel like they’re being played at a party. They want to feel like they’re fascinating you and that you have no agenda other than being fascinated. But be a detective. Remember names, gather contact information, and leave a good impression (read: limit alcohol, trust me.) Just when you think your brain and bladder are going to explode, excuse yourself and hit the latrine. Lock yourself in a stall and write down everything you remember. “Sarah just got promoted to VP of Marketing, her favorite part of the job is the free samples she gets from snack companies…”
Then follow up. Always follow up. Sprinkle those details into your correspondence. “Hi Sarah, it’s Juliet. We met at the Olive Garden. We were talking about our love of snack samples and all things marketing. I thought you should know a friend just slipped me a pack of chocolate chip gum. It’s not going to hit shelves until Spring 2016 but if you let me take you to coffee and pick your brain about (some specific marketing thing) I’ll save the last piece for you…”
Before you crash any corporate retreats, start small. Join clubs, ask a stranger where she got her boots, volunteer. Most networking these days happens through friends of friends, family, and social media connections. Start developing those relationships now so you have a base before you’re on the hunt for a job.
Maya Angelou says, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So make people feel good. Then follow up. Always follow up.
(start by following up to this post. Let’s see how you do.)