Thursday, July 23, 2009

Networking, networking, networking!

Last night I went to a mixer event put on by the Young Leaders Society of Ventura County (and organized by my amazing friend Erica Roundy!) -- you can find out more information about this group at their website.

Networking is a great skill to practice. As a kid I was very shy, and growing up I have had to actively work at being outgoing and meeting people. Putting yourself in new situations is a great way to grow, learn new skills, and possibly conquer some fears! Writers, for example, can no longer afford to hide away and simply write -- we also need to be actively spreading the word about ourselves and our work. Building up your networking confidence helps in virtually any profession -- not to mention social situations that aren't job-related, like cocktail parties, birthday parties, conferences, or just meeting new friends! I met some wonderful people last night and had a fabulous time.

Here are some tips that helped me at the event:

1. Bring along your business cards and make sure they are easily accessible. When you meet someone, they will likely ask for your card as a way of getting in contact with you after the event. If you are carrying them in your purse or pocket, it is a good idea to get a business card holder so you can easily find them. Or just slip a few into your wallet. On the flip side, don't be afraid to ask for someone else's business card -- it's a compliment to them and they will be happy to give you one! The day after the event, it can also be nice to send a brief e-mail to everyone you met saying you hope to keep in touch.

2. Grab a drink. At the event I attended last night, they served alcohol, but I don't really drink. Instead, I got a Diet Coke, and it was nice to have something to hold as I mingled around the room. (I sometimes feel awkward and don't know what to do with my hands!) I learned to carry my drink in my left hand, though, because when shaking hands it can be clumsy to switch your drink to the other hand -- not to mention your handshake will likely be cold and damp due to the condensation on your drinking glass!

3. Quality vs. Quantity. Some people at networking events buzz around the room, meeting as many people as possible for brief, two or three minute conversations. Others talk to only a couple people the entire evening. I think a happy medium is best, but also consider what you hope to get out of the event. What are your networking goals? What are the reasons you chose to attend the event? Personally, I would much rather have a good conversation with a couple people but really get to know them and stay in touch with them after the event, than talk to fifty people but never really get to know any of them, much less remember all their names at the end of the night!

Hope these thoughts were a bit of help. Happy networking!

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