D.C. is the home of happy hours—especially networking happy hours. Every introduction there is the chance for a new job, a new client or a new business partner for your fledgling startup. Here are the best networking tips to make solid connections in any career field.
Boost your confidence
Networking begins before you enter the bar. Stocking up on business cards, finding the right outfit, boosting your confidence. If the last one seems a little trickier than the rest, take a deep breath and know it only takes two minutes to feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s called power posing and it works for networking events, job interviews or even high school reunions (worked on all three for me!). Simply make yourself appear larger, like putting your arms on your hips or standing up tall to take up space, and your brain convinces you that you’re the alpha dog. All in just two minutes.
Ask for a favor
Sure, even with all that confidence, it can be nerve-racking asking someone you’ve known for five minutes to send your resume to their hiring manager. But not only are people eager to grant favors when asked, they’re also more likely to help you the second time around, according to Benjamin Franklin (he did know a thing or two about diplomacy, after all). So get gutsy and just ask. If they do help, follow up with a thank-you email. Bonus points for a handwritten note.
Return the favor
Networking doesn’t work if you make it all about you. Look out for others’ interests as much as your own, instead of repeatedly asking for favors from the same person. If you hear someone has grant writing experience, introduce her to your friend who’s running a non-prof. Even if your kindness doesn’t pay off immediately, they might keep you in mind for another opportunity later down the road.
Get their info
Admit it: You’re not using business cards as best as you could. After a few hours of networking, those cards pile up and names and faces start to blur. Here’s a trick to put that collection of cards to better use. On the card itself, write down where you met the connection, when you met them and an interesting fact about them, like where they went to school or whether or not they think Shake Shack is overrated. Then immediately when you get home…
Send them an email or connect on LinkedIn with a personalized message. A simple “Great meeting you tonight! Thanks for telling me more about the marketing opportunities at Capital One. I look forward to having you as a connection.” This way, they’ll be more likely to remember you when future opportunities arise. If you two discussed a call-to-action, like meeting for lunch or sending over a resume, now is the time to do it.
Karmen Fox is a freelance writer for The Baltimore Sun. She is also the Content Campaign Manager for Digital District and Gray Street Solutions. When she’s not hitting the networking scene, you can find her geeking out about TV and travel on Twitter @KarmenFox.