Networking Is Not Just For Computers

IMG_4449x749x.jpg

By Sophia Perl (Producer, PicPredict) People underestimate the power of networking within your workplace and out and about. At the workplace, people like to work for/with others who they respect and like (note: I used both respect and like, like alone is not enough). This is the same outside the workplace. You don’t lose anything by networking (well maybe time), you only gain by expanding your networking.

I’ll give you an example of when I unknowingly networked with someone and this incident sparked a 10+ year mentoring relationship with me as the mentee. When I first moved up to the Silicon Valley, I didn’t know very many people. I had a friend who lived in the east bay. One day she invited me over to her mom’s for a family BBQ. I met her cousins and her mom’s cousins. I mostly spoke with my friend’s mom’s cousin’s wife (did you get all of that?).

After the BBQ, I went home, thought nothing of it. Two weeks later, I ran into my friend’s mom’s cousin (the husband) at a local restaurant. Apparently, the family lived in the same city as I did. We recognized each other and exchanged business cards. I saw that he worked in tech, so I asked if we could meet up so I can learn more about what he does at “ABC Co”. He was happy to meet and talk about his career.

After that networking incident 10 years ago, I became a firm believer in (purposely) networking. You should too! Today, I still meet with this person. He has since worked with many companies, been acquired, and continues to work on great technology. I find it so invaluable to hear his war stories of being an executive at all of these tech companies.

Sophia's Tips for Networking:

  • Don’t know where to find events to attend? Find events via Eventbrite and Meetup.
  • You can network at any event -- don’t assume that networking is off limits at any event. If you don’t know everyone, it’s your chance to network.
  • Go with a goal -- is it to meet as many people as possible? To meet new friends? To find some job leads?
  • Figure out your 1-2 line answer to “what do you do?” -- everyone always asks, so might as well prepare. Bonus: try different (truthful) answers to see which answer peaks the most interest with folks.
  • For several reasons, invite a friend to go with you to an event:
    • You can meet people together.
    • You can split up and meet more people by introducing one another to new people.
    • Worse case: if event is a dud, you can hang out with your friend.
  • Can’t find people to talk with? It’s as simple as saying “hi” when you walk up to a group.
  • Listen more than talk -- learn from others, be genuine.
  • It’s ok to cut the conversation short so that you can meet other people.
  • Give out business cards and be sure to get business cards from others.
  • Smile! Smile! Smile!
  • Limit the eating and drinking because it’s hard to talk. For sure limit the drinking, slurring and spitting while talking is not likeable.
  • A firm handshake says a lot --a wimpy handshake does also.
  • If you’re not up to the latest news, before you go, read a couple of articles on CNN.com, you can participate in the current event discussions or be the one in the know about “XYZ”.
  • Maximize your nametag signage -- put your twitter handle and blog URL on there.
  • Being fashionably early is IN -- less people means less noise to chat it up, as people trickle in, they will want to join a group which hopefully you are already apart of.
  • Welcome new people into your chatty group and introduce yourself.
  • No snubbing! Treat everyone as you would want to be treated, you never know if your newly found contact has more in common with you than you think.
  • If you can’t get yourself out of a group, say that you need to go to the bathroom. Some people are good are breaking away, some aren’t, use the bathroom excuse.
  • After meeting someone, jot down some notes on the back of his business card to help you remember the conversation. That night or the day after, send a “nice to meet you” note, some will respond back, some won’t (it’s their loss!).

Alright, all of my secrets are out. Get out there and network!!!

This post was originally posted at Sophia Perl's blog.

Photo credit: Erica Kawamoto Hsu of Kuishimbo Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. goingoutsvywpg_fb_pic_biggerAbout the guest blogger: Sophia Perl is a product manager for a database server and client administration tool at IBM. She has over 10 years of combined software development, product management, and research experience. Sophia is the iOS developer for iPhone apps PicPredict and Eventabulous. She is an avid blogger on topics of Silicon Valley startups and technology at www.sophiaperl.com. Sophia holds a B.S. in Computer Science from University of Southern California and an MBA from University of California at Davis. Follow her on Twitter at @sounalath.