The word “networking” usually has a very nauseating connotation to it, especially nowadays when we’re all glued to screens and not connecting IRL. I’ve always been a very social person, excited to chat with people and get to know someone new, but that wasn’t always the case.
Having two parents in the Air Force meant that I moved cross-country every 2 years from the time I was born. I had to walk into a new classroom halfway through the school year and make new friends. It wasn’t easy at first, but with each move I got better at it. It was just a part of my life so I got used to it! I learned how to introduce myself and talk to other kids that I didn’t know. I attribute a lot of my social skills to this lifestyle as a child, but even today I still get nervous when walking into a room of people I don’t know. It’s NORMAL! It just takes practice (and maybe a lil sip of wine).
Try not to think about it as, “Oh god, networking is so stressful.” I like to think of it as, “Oh cool, there’s so many new people here. I wonder what they all do.”
Different Ways I Network
Made in NY Media Center always has some amazing panels and discussions happening, I like to peruse the events calendar every once in a while to see if something piques my interest. I went to the Women in Media Panel a year or so ago and I loved every second of it… I was in the front row with my notebook and pen, lol. I signed up for their events newsletter and they’ll invite you to screenings and panel discussions every once in a while!
Events / Workshops
LMHQ is a “meeting and event space for the NYC creative community,” and they always have some really neat breakfasts / evening mixers / career panels happening. I have been to about 3 events there over the last year and they were all extremely eye-opening. Also subscribed to this newsletter!
Ladies Get Paid is one of the most bad ass resources for boss babes, I can’t recommend these events enough! I went to a finance workshop last year that blew my mind wide open, I can’t wait to go to another one. I am subscribed to this newsletter, too!
Shout out to my friend, Abby Raphel, who hosts the MOST amazing dinner parties. She is so good at inviting people from different professional backgrounds and she makes the most amazing food. YES! She cooks all of her dinner party meals and they are always delicious. I never know who I’m going to meet at her gatherings and that’s always the most exciting part. I’ve connected with quite a few really amazing people at these parties, and I’m so grateful to continuously be included.
Take a Class
What better way to meet new people than by taking a class in a subject that interests you! Maybe it’s a French class, cooking class, ASL class, knitting class, glass blowing class, flower arrangement class… Whatever you want!! Course Horse has some really cool class options.
I recently just took a Producing 101 course at the Made in NY Media Center that was on a Sunday from 10am – 5pm. It was so fun, I met new people, and learned more about the entertainment industry that I’ve always been curious about!
And I am also hoping to take an Intro to Project Management course at General Assembly in February or March.
If part of your job requires you to go to events, make sure you’re introducing yourself! Whenever I go to a client’s opening night show and party, not only is my boss introducing me to other people in the industry (thanks, boss!) but I’m also chatting other people up, too! A lot of the time, because the entertainment industry is so small, the person I just met knows one of my close friends or colleagues and then we talk even more!
Force bring a friend to a happy hour business mixer! There are so many websites that lists all different types of industry mixers be it music, social impact, finance, entertainment, you name it! Just do a little research and ask a friend to join you! I like to scroll through the mixers on Eventbrite.
Emails / Direct Messaging / Texts
Often times, the way I network is by reaching out to the people that I already know. I have emailed colleagues from other offices to set up coffee or drinks, I have Instagram DM’d one of my favorite podcasters to see if she’ll be doing any meetups (she is! and I’m GOING!), and I’ve texted old friends to set up a 30min FaceTime call so that I could ask them about their job and career path! Get creative and just be honest with your friends! More often than not, your people would be happy to chat with you! And if they don’t want to chat with you about it, then maybe you need new friends..
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
We’ve all heard this one before, and I genuinely adhere to this rule. Please don’t wear baggy jeans, sneakers, and a wrinkly t-shirt to a mixer. I’m not saying you need to wear a dress and heels, but try and find a more polished look that you could show off, first impressions are everything. I feel best in my LOFT Slacks (I have 4 different colors) or black jeans, fitted blouse, H&M blazer, and small black pointed-toe pumps or nice flats. I like to throw on the pumps before fancier events because I actually carry myself differently when I wear them. I stand taller and keep my shoulders back. Works wonders. But ultimately, wear whatever you feel great in. You want to walk in confident and feeling good.
**Please take this advice with a grain of salt! Obviously, if you’re going to a low key meet up or something casual, there’s no need to look all corporate fancy… that’s just my vibe…. ok, onward.
Always Do Your Research.
If you are going to a panel discussion, you must read up on who the speakers are. You have permission to stalk them on the internet. What is their current position? Where did they go to school? Are they on any boards? What are some of their career accomplishments? DO YOU HAVE ANY CONNECTIONS WITH THEM ON LINKED IN?! These are all smart ways to prepare yourself for the off-chance you might actually run into them at the event or down the line. And even if you don’t run into one of the speakers or find a way to introduce yourself, you’ll definitely be chatting with the people around you at the event and you’ll want to be in-the-know about who these people are and what they do.
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone.
Just the fact that you SHOWED UP to a networking event / dinner party / panel discussion is proof that you are stepping out of your comfort zone. YAASSS! So now that you’re there… maybe say hello to the person you’re sitting next to… maybe ask someone else if they’ve been to one of these events before.. you’re already out there, might as well keep going! Chat it up!
Be Genuinely Curious.
Try not to think about it as, “Oh god, networking is so stressful.” I like to think of it as, “Oh cool, there’s so many new people here. I wonder what they all do.” That way, I ask real questions, because I genuinely want to hear about what they do / how they got involved in their line of work. It’s all about perspective! And remember… they’re probably nervous, too.
Some people have them, some people don’t! My office doesn’t have business cards so I made my own on Moo.com with my name, email, and phone number. I just like having a few on hand because you never know who will ask for one! But no worries if you don’t have any! You can always whip out your phones and connect that way (that’s honestly how I do it most of the time). Be sure to put them in your address book and get their email! Also don’t forget their name when they put it in, maybe add a little keyword about the event so you can find them in your phone book later.
** And god bless name tags! Seriously, name tags are so helpful. Write your name clearly so people can read it!
As a rule of thumb, just try to converse like a normal human. Be genuine in your questioning, attentive while listening, and curious with your responses and feedback. And be yourself! Here are a couple of ways I’ve started conversations at events:
When I meet a speaker/panelist who went to my alma mater:
“Hi Allison, I’m Alex Porterfield (ALWAYS SAY YOUR LAST NAME). [shake hands] Thanks for all of that great advice, I really enjoyed what you had to share with us. I actually went to Fordham, as well!… [maybe they react positively and ask if you know so-and-so] Yes! I do know her! We worked together on blah blah blah…
So because I did my research and knew where Allison went to school, I introduced myself and used that as my “in”.
When I’m in someone’s general vicinity/I see someone standing alone:
[Friendly smile] “Hi, how are you? I’m Alex. [shake hands/exchange names] How did you hear about this event? [exchange answers] Very cool! And what do you do?”
90% of the time, the other person is hoping someone will talk to them, too, and now both of you are getting to know each other! Boom! Networking.
That’s all I’ve got for now, but I hope this inspires you step out of your comfort zone a little bit! It gets easier!