Young Professionals Network

Mastering the Art of Networking: How to Connect Authentically and Achieve Results

Networking is an essential skill for professionals looking to build meaningful connections, expand their professional circles, and unlock new opportunities. While the thought of introducing yourself at a networking event may seem daunting, remember that everyone else is in the same boat. Ahead of our Young Professionals Conference next month, we wanted to explore effective networking strategies that can help you navigate these types of events with confidence and create valuable connections.

1. Embrace New Introductions

Don't let fear hold you back from introducing yourself at a networking event. Remember that others are likely feeling the same way, and by taking the first step, you create an opportunity for both parties to connect. Approach conversations with an open mind and a friendly demeanor, and you'll be surprised how receptive people can be.

Easy conversation started include: (1) bring up the event you are at and ask if the person has ever attended before, (2) ask what company they work for and what they do, or (3) ask how they got into the industry. People love to talk about themselves and it feels natural, so you’ll get many tips to touch on to keep the conversation going.

2. Find Common Ground

One way to break the ice and foster engaging conversations is by finding a common hobby or interest. Discovering shared passions can lead to natural and enjoyable discussions that go beyond work-related topics. Take the time to listen actively, ask questions, and show genuine curiosity about the other person. Building a connection on a personal level creates a solid foundation for future interactions.

3. Attend Industry Events and Conferences

Industry-specific events and conferences provide excellent networking opportunities. By attending these gatherings, you can meet like-minded professionals, stay updated on industry trends, and connect with potential mentors or collaborators.

4. Follow Up

Following up after a networking event is crucial to solidify the connections you've made. Send a thank-you email or message to express your gratitude for the conversation and the insights shared. Additionally, consider connecting with them on LinkedIn to maintain a professional connection. Remember to personalize your follow-up message by referencing a specific point from your conversation to demonstrate your attentiveness and sincerity.

5. Keep a Record

Keeping a record of the people you've met and the conversations you've had can be immensely helpful for future reference. Consider maintaining a networking journal or using digital tools to store key details, such as names, companies, and key discussion points. This practice ensures that you can recall important information when needed and allows for more meaningful follow-ups.

6. Utilize Social Media

This is a great way to keep a record of your contacts. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is a powerful platform for expanding your professional network. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, highlighting your skills, experiences, and achievements.

Continue to engage with other professionals in your field by commenting on their posts and sharing relevant content. This active participation will increase your visibility and enhance your professional reputation.

7. Embrace Both In-Person and Online Networking

While in-person networking has its unique advantages, online networking platforms have become valuable tools, especially in light of recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic. These platforms have made networking more accessible for introverted individuals. However, remember that face-to-face interactions still hold significant value. Strive to strike a balance between virtual and in-person networking opportunities to make the most of both worlds.

In both cases, when you find someone on LinkedIn or a professional contact you want to create, ask for a virtual or in-person coffee chat to learn more about them and how they’ve navigated their career. It’s an easy way to build your network.

8. Seek Introductions

If you feel uncomfortable reaching out directly to someone you want to connect with, leverage your existing network. If you know someone who knows the person you'd like to connect with, ask for an introduction. This approach can help break the ice and establish a level of trust right from the start.

9.  Volunteer or Join Professional Organizations

Volunteering for industry-related causes or joining professional organizations allows you to meet professionals who share similar passions and interests. It demonstrates your commitment to your field and provides opportunities to build valuable relationships.

In packaging, this might look like volunteering for a local robotics competition or helping out at a STEM event in a school. Plus, you’ll just feel better when you continue to give back.

10. Most Importantly, Be Interested in Others

The most interesting person in the room is the one who is genuinely interested in everyone else. Actively listen, ask insightful questions, and demonstrate your curiosity. Building connections doesn't always require sharing your own story but rather showing an authentic interest in the stories.

Put These Tips to the Test

Join us next month in Chicago for our Young Professionals Conference! View the agenda and register here.