Post by Jennifer Leopoldt (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)
Networking can be intimidating, but with the right advice and mindset, anyone can succeed. That’s what participants learned at the DePaul Women’s Network fall Brown Bag Luncheon, “Effective Networking for Success,” on Oct. 24, 2012.
Three members of DePaul’s MBA Career Management Center team—Christa Hinton, Brooke Gugat and Jennifer Kopczynski—led female faculty and staff through a presentation about how to prepare for and perform better at networking events. You can find a copy of their networking presentation on the DWN website.
1. Recognize your barriers. What keeps you from networking? Find out what is stopping you and work past that. The presenters gave a few common examples of what people say:
- “Networking is a waste of time.” Hinton, assistant dean and director of DePaul’s MBA Career Management Center, disagrees. She urges people to put a positive spin on attending events. “Make yourself promise to stay until you find something worthwhile. And you will find something worthwhile,” she says.
- “I’m shy.” It may be difficult, but try to push through feelings of shyness. “You learn a lot about yourself during networking in addition to learning about the other person,” says Kopczynski, assistant director and career specialist. There are also ways to ease your anxiety at the event. Gugat, an associate director and career specialist, suggests volunteering at an event so you have an easy opening for talking with people, coming early to scope out the room, or spending time in the food line so a conversation starter is built in.
2. Create your story.
Thinking up an “elevator pitch” before an event can help you from feeling like you don’t know what to say. Use a few simple steps to create one:
- Write down answers to these questions: 1) Who are you? 2) What do you have to offer? Why should they be interested in you? 3) Call for action: The ask.
- Practice what you’re saying with different people and change your story based on their reactions.
- Don’t expect to instantly create a relationship with someone just by meeting at a big networking event. Instead, follow up afterward and ask to get to know someone through an informational interview.
3. Be comfortable with yourself. Participants at the event wanted to know how to handle certain etiquette situations at business events. Hinton urged them to be honest and polite.
- If you don’t want to shake hands, explain so tactfully by saying something like, “I would shake your hand but I’m sick so perhaps we shouldn’t. It’s nice to meet you, though.”
- Hinton also urged people to be true to themselves. “If it’s not you, don’t do it. But if it is you or you want it to be you, practice it.”
4. Start networking anytime and anywhere. A few Brown Bag participants took the opportunity to get to know one another and share similar interests. Networking does not have to be scary. It can be casual and fun and can happen anywhere.
5. Reach out to DWN. At the end of the event, DWN President Christine Gallagher Kearney encouraged participants to reach out to any member of the group’s planning committee. DWN board members are good contacts for networking and welcome questions from faculty and staff at DePaul.
The event was designed to give participants a few networking techniques they could use going forward. Most of all, DWN Brown Bag Chair Erin Higgins encouraged people to just go out and network, despite any worries or fears, because they could gain experience and look back with clarity: “You did it. You didn’t die. It’s going to be better next time.”
Did you attend the event? Please feel free to leave a comment about what you enjoyed or the lessons you learned about networking. We’d love to hear from you.