I’ve started a new lunch-and-learn series, the second of which is about purposeful networking. This based primarily on my previous posts on this topic, incorporating some new ideas based on reading and reviewing my own networking approach. So far, around 100 people have attended and participated in these lunch-and-learn sessions, and the feedback has been positive. My objective is to enable others to establish for themselves a purposeful network as a lifelong resource for their career and professional development.
Some additional elements of purposeful networking:
At the end of each session, I ask if there are any questions. Here are a few that stuck with me:
If you had to choose between LinkedIn and Twitter for online or virtual networking, which would it be?
Without hesitation or reservation, LinkedIn. Its purpose is professional networking, and it provides lots of opportunities for this, including the much-underused Recommendations. Use these to get real, live, references, and to give recognition to the stars in your network. By comparison, Twitter is too open and not at all focused – it’s a great place to get ideas and keep up to date on things but comes with too many caveats to be safe or reliable.
Some ways to use LinkedIn effectively include:
Business cards – necessary or not?
This depends a lot on your business and industry, as well as the culture of those you’re interacting with. In my own world, I rarely use them. I have stacks of them from jobs past and present, and when I’m presented with one from someone else, it almost always ends up in the bin. Your contact information, along with most other people in the work world, is available online in a variety of places, often more up-to-date than a printed business card. Unless it is a requirement in your field or culture, save some trees and skip the cards.
Small talk – easy to say, hard to do
There are lots of articles online about questions to ask to make small talk (here and here), and the book Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty includes lots of tips on this topic. The main thing is to be polite and respectful. You can try being a “social detective” – ask purposeful questions to get to know someone, pay attention and show them you are interested by actively listening.
For beginners, ice breaker questions might include:
More advanced ice breakers:
You need to be prepared to answer any question that you ask, so plan ahead what you’ll say to any of these. Don’t get too personal – stick to business. And don’t monopolize anyone – remember your goals for the event: meet, connect, move on.
Not everyone has the opportunity to attend conferences. What other events might work for networking?
Any gathering of people that you might share a common work or business interest with is a good place to network. There are lots of informal local groups around social, technology, science, arts, current events, and other topics that can be a good place for networking. Even within your organization – at a staff meeting, sit beside someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, and build up your network (and theirs).
Remember: purposeful networks are real, meaningful, mutually beneficial, and sustained. Good luck building your network!
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.