As the theme for this year’s 9th Annual GW Women in Business Conference is #MakeYourMark, it’s a good time to think about your strategy for participating in the conference. What are you hoping to get out of the event? Where are your areas of confusion? In what way are you hoping to get more clarity? In addition to attending, listening and asking questions at the various sessions, how might you gain more specific insight into how to make your mark in a future career? You guessed it – it’s through networking.
Networking is a very powerful tool when you approach it in a strategic and genuine way. Strategic networking is an overall approach rather than a strict point by point plan. It doesn’t mean, for example, that you don’t show genuine interest in each and every individual you happen to meet. You never know where a connection might lead. Strategic networking in the context of the conference means thinking about what you might want to do as a future career, preparing your ‘elevator pitch’ and seeking to make connections with experienced professionals where there seems to be a synergy. Others can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re interested in, where your talents lie, etc…
Here are my top five tips for getting the most out of networking:
1. Prepare a brief introduction for you to use when you meet someone. This should include what you’re studying, when you’re graduating, and the areas you are interested in focusing on in your career and why. Mention any specific coursework or news which demonstrates your enthusiasm for the subject. Sharing your ‘why’ is a chance to make it personal and it’s the personal piece which others will connect with and remember.
2. Be curious about the person directly in front of you – the one you’re conversing with. There is nothing more insulting than when the person you’re talking to is looking somewhere else in the room. Your attention should only be on them. One of the best ways to get others interested in you, is for you to show interest in them first!
3. Use open-ended questions to get to know the other person. What area do you work in and how did you get involved in that? What parts of your role do you love? Which parts are less fun? What challenges do you see in your industry/company? Where do you see the growth opportunities?
4. Share your business card. Although others may say, “I will connect with you on LinkedIn,” it rarely happens so you want to take the initiative and ask for their business cards. If you don’t have a business card, you can easily and cheaply create one on packages such as Vista Print, Moo, etc. Keep the card simple in design.
5. Send a personal message on LinkedIn. after the conference asking your new acquaintance to connect with you on LinkedIn: “It was great meeting you at the GWWIB conference, I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.” People are moving roles and companies at an unprecedented rate so just getting a business card is not enough. As each user is responsible for keeping his/her contact information up-to-date, LinkedIn is an invaluable networking resource.
Be yourself and truly enjoy the opportunity to see the world through different perspectives. You can then choose which perspective or path might suit your career aspirations, and figure out how you will #MakeYourMark in your future career. Even in today’s highly digital world, your network (other people!) is still the most effective resource in helping build and shape your career.
The Female Capitalist®
GWSB MBA, International Business 1992
Member, GWSB Board of Advisors