I am thrilled to share the first post in a 3 part series on networking written by the Of Mercer ladies, Dorie and Emelyn. Given that these two actually met at a networking event at Wharton (and then started a business together) I couldn’t wait to hear their tips. Networking doesn’t come easily to all of us… and through this 3 part series, Dorie and Emelyn will share how you can get over your fear of networking and get the most out of your current and future network!
One of the most important things we got out of attending business school was a strong network of peers, teachers, and mentors, a group that has been crucial to us as entrepreneurs. How did we develop these relationships? Networking!
But when we look back we absolutely remember how much we dreaded networking. We thought we could never be good at it, and even if we became good at it, it was still superficial and wouldn’t actually make a difference. If you find yourself in the same camp, read on. Over a three part series, we are going to share the lessons we learned at business school on how we changed our attitude and learned to network effectively. Whether you are looking to start networking or hone your skills, we hope these lessons will help.
Part 1: Get in the right mindset
Before you can begin to be an effective networker, you need the right attitude. In our experience, we found there are five common misbeliefs that hold people back from networking. Whether you identify with one or all five, addressing these roadblocks is a key first step.
- I should be networking. You should not network for the sake of it; instead you should set goals for networking. Ask yourself why you’re networking, and keep in mind that the answer is not “I think I should” or “Everyone else is.” Your goals can be as broad as wanting to meet more people in your industry or as specific as wanting a summer internship at a certain company. These goals will direct whom you reach out to and how you guide the conversations. Aimlessly going into networking is a waste of your time, and you will make a poor first impression.
- Networking is just schmoozing. Networking is not superficial. It is a series of conversations with the goal of developing real relationships. These new relationships will ultimately be a series of gives and takes, rather than a one-off, or a one-sided transaction. Even if you can’t help the other person now, you will be able to down the road.
- Asking for help is an imposition. It is not. People genuinely like helping others when they are given the opportunity, so you should not feel guilty about asking. Don’t you feel good when you’re able to help someone with your expertise? If you reach out to someone and she is unable (or unwilling) to help, the worst thing she can do is say she doesn’t have the time.
- Networking is overwhelming and time-consuming. One of the biggest challenges with networking is that there are a huge number of people with whom you can and want to form relationships. It can feel very overwhelming, so take it one contact at a time. Focus on depth not breadth. It’s much more effective to have a great conversation with one person rather than five so-so conversations with five people. Be deliberate with whom you reach out to, and keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve.
- I’m introverted so I won’t be good at networking. There are always those people who seem like they were born networkers – they’re outgoing and love talking to new people but that doesn’t mean they’re any better at networking than an introverted person. The key is to stay authentic to who you are. Find a style of reaching out to people that makes you feel comfortable and stick with it. If you stay true to who you are, you will build a more meaningful network in the long run.
Networking will be something you do continually over the course of your career and having the right attitude from the beginning will make it a more seamless and effortless part of your daily life.
Next up on our Networking Series: How to effectively reach out to and “cold network” with someone.
*Featured photo via the Of Mercer Fall/Winter Lookbook
Dorie Golkin Smith and Emelyn Northway co-founded Of Mercer, an online brand of stylish, desk-to-dinner career clothing for women. The pair are 2013 graduates of the Wharton Business School, where they met and came up with the concept for Of Mercer after showing up to an early networking event in the same boring work dress. Prior to attending business school, Dorie worked in management consulting, and Emelyn in private equity and investment banking.