by Grace Judson
For many administrative professionals (and, if they’re being honest, many executives!), networking is a necessary evil. Time-consuming and often overwhelming, it’s all too easy to let networking slide off your to-do list.
Professional connections are important—perhaps even essential—to your career success. Your network is where you find resources for advancement, support when you need ideas or how-to information, and friends who understand, in ways no one else can, what it really means to be an administrative professional. So how can you make networking more enjoyable? Here are five tips that will help.
Not all events are created equal! As you do your research on the events in your area, validate what types of people attend, and ensure that the organization’s overall topic is aligned with your networking objectives. For instance, if you currently work for a large law office but law isn’t interesting to you, don’t attend a gathering that’s related to lawyers or law admins.
Instead, try attending events focused on industries you’re unfamiliar with, such as human resources (the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, has chapters around the world and often hosts excellent speakers at their meetings) or nonprofits (the Association of Fundraising Professionals is also international and their meetings are a great place to learn more about nonprofits in your area).
Of course, these are just a few options. The internet is the perfect tool for researching networking groups in any field or topic. Just type in your industry or topic of interest along with the words “networking,” “networking group,” or “professional association,” and you’ll get plenty of options.
Once you’ve attended a few of a group’s events, step back and evaluate how it’s working out for you. Are you making good connections? Have the speakers been interesting? And, yes, even… has the food been good (it’s always nice to find a great event that also serves good food)? If the group doesn’t seem to be a fit, don’t force yourself to keep attending. Instead, move on and try another group.
Once you’ve picked which group’s events to try out, do a little more homework. When you sign up to attend, does the event website offer a list of other attendees? Do you know anyone on that list? Perhaps even more importantly, is there someone on the list you want to know?
If there’s a speaker for the event, research their website or LinkedIn profile in case you decide to introduce yourself after they’ve spoken. Most speakers will hang around to answer follow-up questions and make connections. After all, they’re speaking in order to expand their own network! You’ll stand out as someone worth knowing if you can demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and can say something knowledgeable about their work.
Even extroverts are sometimes overwhelmed by walking into a noisy, crowded room full of strangers. If you’re an introvert, it’s that much more challenging. So be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to observe from the outskirts of the room if that makes you feel more comfortable (but don’t let yourself start feeling like a wallflower!).
Let yourself off the hook for introducing yourself to everyone you see. Instead, set an intention to meet just one interesting person. That’s much more fun than feeling like you have to walk away with a stack of business cards! And when you’re done, be done. It’s okay to leave before the event is over if you’ve reached a saturation point.
Networking doesn’t end when the event is over. In fact, that’s when the real work of networking begins. Most people don’t follow up after an event. In fact, I did an informal study a few years ago and learned that even when someone specifically says they’ll be in touch after the event, only about five to ten percent actually do follow up.
If you’re a part of that tiny group of proactive people, you’ll stand out and be memorable in the best possible way. The day after the event, take a few minutes to write emails to people with whom you had good conversation. Suggest getting together for coffee or lunch. These one-on-one meetings are where the real gold lies, because this is where you start building relationships with people who can support you in your career—and whom you can help in theirs.
Be a joiner!
If you find a group you really enjoy, consider becoming a member. Members typically get discounts on event admission fees, and you’ll also have a chance to volunteer. The great thing about volunteering is that it not only enhances your professional skills and your resume; it also gives you a wonderful sense of belonging and a way to network more naturally and easily than just walking into that roomful of noisy strangers!
Networking is an important professional skill. You never know when you’ll need your network—and the time to build a network is not when you discover how much you need it.
Grace will be at the CAPstone Conference, demonstrating to those who go attend the certification bootcamp how the content of the CAP exam applies to their day-to-day work. If you would like to attend the certification bootcamp, there are limited spots available. Click here to learn more.
If you are interested in the CAP Certification program, click here.
About Grace Judson
Grace has a vision of a world where people talk about what matters.
Because they do, their businesses, careers, and lives flourish. Their professional and personal relationships thrive. They achieve their goals and enjoy meaningful success. And they make a difference in the world.
Her mission is to help leaders, teams, and individuals transform conflict, navigate tough business negotiations, and heal relationships.
She’s based in northwestern Arkansas, and she’s online at www.gracejudson.com, where you can find more about her work and her book, browse through her library of resources, and sign up to receive her newsletter of tips and practical action steps.
And she recently opened a private Facebook group called the Connection Incubator, where people learn how to have better conversations … conversations that nurture connections, that heal instead of hurt, that foster understanding instead of division, that lead to solutions instead of battles.