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5 key tips for growing and maintaining your network

Networking: some of us love it, some of us…not so much, but either way, it is an essential part to growing both personally and professionally. Recently, Experian Data Quality hosted a Local Levo: Boston event entitled ‘The Power of a Network,’ that helped give us, regardless of how we felt about the concept before, a whole new outlook on networking.

The event included a panel discussion with Courtney Cunnane, VP of Marketing at Experian Data Quality, Cynthia Wachs, Senior Advancement Executive, Katie Burke, VP of Culture and Experience at HubSpot, and Pam Willsey, LICSW, BCD, PCC at Willsey Connections. These incredible women shared their experiences in their impressive career paths, and the wisdom we learned about networking was too good not to share. We’ve broken it down into five key tips for growing and maintaining your network, and we hope you will feel just as inspired as we did.

1. Networking can happen anywhere

A lot of times we may think of networking as attending a cocktail hour where you exchange business cards, shake hands, and are on your way. Whether this is your type of scene, or whether it drives you to “suddenly have a reason you can’t make it that evening,” we learned that some of the best ways to network can happen much more organically.

This means at the grocery store, after joining a gym, at the hair salon, the subway, or on the plane. Don’t be afraid to look for the connections around you, and strike up conversation. As our panelists taught us, we have more similarities with those around us than we think.

2. Networking is about the relationship

A lot of times, especially for those of us looking to advance our careers, we think of networking as ‘how can this person help me, what can I receive from them?’ As our panelists taught us, it is quite the opposite. When we focus on building a connection with those we are meeting, the chance for us to assist one another will come naturally.

We all know about the awkward email, you know, when you’re asking someone for a recommendation or assistance, when you really haven’t maintained that relationship. We shouldn’t leave contacts in our network just until we need help. Sending someone a quick note when something reminds you of them, and focusing on staying in touch, rather than what you can gain from them is a crucial part of maintaining a network and being authentic.

3. We are all just people

Hold on! Before you get too nervous about reaching out to that executive at your business, or striking up conversation with that person you frequently see in your workout class, it’s important to remember they are all just people.

As long as you come prepared with who you are, and what you hope to discuss, senior leaders love the opportunity to invest in other colleagues. 

4. You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up

Thought you needed your end career goal formulated into an elevator speech to be a master networker? Not the case. Laura, one of our own EDQ event attendees and a member of our Women’s Leadership group, quotes: “It was encouraging to hear these smart, articulate women who, frankly, have amazing jobs, mention that they were liberal arts majors, felt like their first job was draining their souls, but who were able to carve incredible careers out for themselves, even without going back to school.” To elaborate, she provided us with a few ways to get us to help us network effectively, even if we don’t know what that dream job is yet:

  • Get visual. Draw boxes of things you like to do, things you’re good at, and things that you want to do in the workplace. Then figure out what job(s) will allow you to practice those things.
  • Go to networking events with an idea of who is attending. Come prepared with targeted questions for those people you want to talk to.
  • If you’re worrying that you have too many interests to talk about at a networking event, just pick three strengths or likes that resonate with the people or theme of the event. Also, you can find those Jack-of-all-trades and see how they’ve built their brand and furthered their careers.

5. “Practice your Beyonce Walk”

That’s right, step away from your computer, put down your phone, and do your Beyonce walk. Katie shared that often times, similar to the drop in confidence that happens with adolescents, the same dip can happen with those entering their first years in the workplace.

This can discourage us from having confidence while networking and interacting! Her mother advised doing a “Beyonce walk” to call on Bey’s courageous and confident attitude, and carry that into your meeting, networking event, or day. So what are you waiting for?

Want to practice your networking and interact with us? Just reach out, we’d love to chat!

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