While this pairing seems random, it turns out that networking and dating actually have a lot in common. When seeking out a mate, you are generally looking for a variety of factors that ultimately lead to someone who makes you happy; many times that person “makes you a better person”. The same is true with networking. You are looking for a connection with people that can elevate your professional life, in the pursuit of your own happiness. Just like in dating, however, there are strategies meant to help you appear to be a “great catch”. Thankfully, there are many “roses” in networking, so you don’t have to limit yourself to just one relationship! These tips will show you how to provide value to your network instead of just gaining from it.
Take Advantage of Time – Just like on The Bachelor, you might be vying for the attention of one well-connected person at an event, and may only have a couple of minutes to make a good impression. You can’t monopolize someone for an entire event, so you have to perfect the art of establishing those relationships quickly. If you meet someone at an event, be sure to get their card so you can follow up with them again later on LinkedIn or for a cup of coffee.
Attitude is Everything – If you go into networking situations thinking that it’s all about yourself, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. Networking is about helping others so they also want to help you. When talking to potential connections, certainly talk about your interests and what you are looking for, but also be sure to ask them questions. What do they do? What do they need? How can you help? Ever gone on a date with someone that ONLY talks about themselves and what they want? Doesn’t make for a great impression, and usually doesn’t result in a second date!
Know Your Value – As college students, it’s easy to think that you have nothing to offer or that others would not be interested in what you can contribute to a networking opportunity, but that is simply not true. You bring incredible value to the conversation: insight into your demographic and peers as well as a fresh perspective. Many organizations today are trying to garner the attention of the younger generation, or learn about social media, and would love to talk with someone who could provide them with advice and guidance. In addition, fresh eyes on problems can encourage creativity, thinking outside the box, and your other networking connections may be of value to them as well. Confidence here is key; know that you have something valuable to offer.
Follow Through – Many students reach out to networking contacts to ask for jobs or contacts, but never take it to the next level. Schedule a meeting with a mentor or someone in your field of study and pick their brain. Find out what it takes to be successful. If they give you advice, take it. Then, follow up and let them know what you did and how it worked out. Networking connections are much more likely to reach out to others on your behalf if they know you will make a good impression and follow through. “Woo” your connections; share an article they posted on LinkedIn or comment on their status. Send them a thank you note; let them know you appreciate their efforts. Go after that second date!
Networking connections love to know that they are making a difference; most people LOVE to help other people. However, networking relationships, just like romantic relationships, are never successful when they are one-sided. Use your skills to show your networking connections that you value their contributions, and that you want to help them out as well. Follow these tips and you will hopefully never experience networking heartbreak again!
Written by: Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Edited by: Emily Rollins, St. Ambrose University
Career Advisor/Coordinator of Events & Marketing