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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Network Like a Pro

After nearly 20 years of sleepovers, chick flicks and coffee dates, I am at a loss to explain how my girlfriends and I have not exhausted the one topic that consistently dominates our conversations: the rules of crushes. However after attending Chi Chi Okezie 98OX 00C and Terrell Pugh's presentation “How to Network Like a Pro” last Thursday at the Miller-Ward Alumni House, I was reassured that we haven’t necessarily been wasting our time!

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time dating or analyzing your friends’ interactions, I bet you know a lot more about networking than you think. And, if you already consider yourself a social media expert, I assure you that you still have more to learn. The night was an eye-opener for the 75 people in attendance, including my fellow interns and I (the three of us can hardly remember the days when we weren’t status updating, tweeting, or “liking” something every two seconds)! Decide for yourself by taking a look at the following tips from Okezie and Pugh…

* Similar interests make great conversation starters
Opposites aren’t the only ones that attract. Look to professional or social groups to meet people with similar interests and to find attractive networking opportunities.

* The first impression
Since first impressions are crucial, the experts began the night by posing an interesting challenge: try introducing yourself and your position in 30 seconds without using the words “I” or “we”. It’s much harder than it sounds, but eliminating these words allows for an effective and personal delivery. This also forces you to repeat your name and company frequently as a refresher so your new connection is more likely to remember you.

* When can you give out your number?
Consider waiting to hand out your business card unless asked. Why not let your potential connection make the first move? That way you’re assured that the desire to pursue a further relationship is mutual. However, if you feel comfortable you can always request your acquaintance’s information first and you may receive a request for yours in return!

* Personalizing messages and avoiding lines
Mass texting is a notorious misstep in the dating world. Okezie agrees that the same rule applies to office relationships. Don’t copy and past great-to-meet-you follow up notes. She urges to always take the time to personalize, even at the expense of sending fewer greetings out in exchange; it will pay off!

* The 3-Day Rule
Wait three days to send a follow-up message. You will appear organized and interested, but will also avoid coming off as too eager.

* Playing hard to get, (but not too hard!)
Make sure to establish your availability and interest without appearing desperate. After a couple of days without hearing back, it’s reasonable to inquire if your message was received. Checking in more than this is probably too forward. If you never receive an answer, take the hint, smile and move on. (Reversely, sending a follow-up message in a week or two is appropriate, while sending one months later is probably a mistake. No one likes to feel like a last resort!)

* Following up on initial promises
Establish credibility and trustworthiness by going out of your way to do what you say you will from the very beginning. The ability to follow through will set you apart.

* Your online image
When in doubt, leave it out. No one wants to spend energy on making a good impression and hooking someone’s interest just to lose the relationship to a last-minute change of heart because your connection learns something negative about you. Why make it easy for future employers who can find this information with a simple web search? Google yourself regularly. Also, be aware that even if you take measures to block certain parts of your online persona, programs like LinkedIn Recruiter allow employers to view all of your online content.

* The night ended with a debate around the dreaded question that I have personally agonized over many times: the Facebook friend request. There is little to say about this one except to use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis. Be aware that many people separate their personal and professional lives between social media platforms, and don’t be offended if someone rejects you on Facebook and requests you on LinkedIn, or a different platform instead. Additionally, be very selective about who you let see what.

A special thank you to Okezie from SIMPLEnetworking and Pugh from the Creative Touch for these pointers on how to flirt professionally!

-- Liz Speyer 14C, communications intern, EAA

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the awesome post, Liz! Great seeing/meeting you at the event. I had BIG Fun!