Networking: How to engage effectively

Networking is one of those buzz words used in school, business and the broader professional world quite frequently. When we stop to think about the concept, do we really know (or remember) what it means, or how to engage in it effectively?

I recently attended two local networking events and wanted to share my realizations. As it turns out, those skills we learn in college can be put to good use as a working adult, and at the end of the day – you might find that you find them beneficial in ways you never thought you would. Here are five things I realized while networking as a working professional.

  1. Go by yourself. The event is designed to help you meet people, so there’s no harm in showing up alone. While flying solo, I found that I stepped out of my comfort zone to introduce myself, learn more about others, and ask questions. Find confidence in yourself to stand out as an individual, rather than a classmate, co-worker, friend, or spouse. You’re your own person – be proud of that!
  2. Remember to bring business cards. Don’t bother fumbling with a pen and paper to write down names, numbers, and email addresses – that’s awkward. Simply ask to exchange business cards with those you meet who you may want to utilize as a resource in the future. Maybe they will be a new best friend, a prosperous client, loyal customer, or future employer.
  3. Think about the food. Cheddar popcorn while shaking hands during introductions wasn’t the best choice on my part. Don’t feel like you can’t enjoy the provided snacks and refreshments; just take a little time to think through how they may affect your networking ability in the provided setting. If you meet and mingle first, you’ll be able to snack and socialize later with ease.
  4. Be proud of your journey – and share it! Once we start working, it’s easy to let our current employer or job title define us. Don’t forget about where you grew up, went to college, or maybe even a summer camp you attended when you were in 10th grade. Through sharing more about yourself, you’ll likely uncover common ground with uncommon people and build stronger, more meaningful (and memorable) relationships.
  5. Don’t dine and dash. Before making the decision to attend a networking event, think through your motivation for attending. Are you interested in the organization(s)? Will there be business leaders you are hoping to capture the attention of? Are you going in support of a good cause? Or is it the two free drink tickets and not having to cook dinner when you get home? Whatever the reason may be, check your conscience to ensure that you’re making the most beneficial and efficient use of time for all parties involved.

It’s no secret that networking can be intimidating to some and seem unnecessary to others. When you take an optimistic and open-minded approach (and go prepared), I hope you find future networking events to be fruitful and enjoyable. From one working professional to another – whether you’re a student or already in the field – we’re in this world of connectedness together! What’s your best networking tip or personal story?

Joleen Rupe-Hueftle joined Aureus Medical Group in May 2015 as a Recruiter in the Nursing division. She is now a Student Outreach Coordinator for the Rehab Therapy division. In her free time, Joleen enjoys spending time with family, running, cooking, and baking.

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