Network Your Heart Out

Hi all, Maddie here. I wanted to fill you in on last weeks Career Friday meeting here at the Portfolio Center. Our topic was networking, which can be thought of generally two ways. Either people brush off the idea of formal networking since communication comes easily to them, or even the thought of the word will make a person nauseous due to fear of saying good things about themselves to other professionals. I’ve personally been in both places.

No matter how you feel about the idea of networking, there are a few pieces to always remember while having a professional conversation. Here at the Portfolio Center, we’ve narrowed it down to three things.

  1. Prepare
  2. Make an Impression
  3. Follow Up

There, not so daunting now, is it?

You’re probably already more prepared then you’d think. Because ultimately networking is talking about what you love, when you really break it down. Your business cards and portfolio and your pitch are centered around what you’re passionate about. As long as you can concisely and engagingly talk about your passion in the time it takes you to, say, ride an elevator, you know you’re ready to start.

To top it all off and bring it to best, though, make sure everything is updated regularly. Design your business card to represent your style and ALWAYS have them on you. That way you are always prepared. Put your current work in your portfolio. Put all of your most recent experience at the top of your resume. And before you begin, understand what’s happening in your industry. Is it not doing so well? Are not as many people buying the products that you’re trying to sell? Know that so that when you’re talking to somebody about how wonderful and talented you are, you can talk on how you plan to rise above the current representations of your field. Explain how you’re going to bring something fresh to the table.

Remember that networking isn’t all about you. Successful networking involves asking other professionals what they’re working on and offering yourself as a contact if they ever could use your skills. It may not immediately benefit any project that you may be working on, but it will give you experience and will create a better bond between your and your network. A network isn’t about one large, clustered ball of as many contacts as you can get. It is an expanding, connected web with iron bonds that piece together your success. Taking the time to go that extra mile and return favors, ensuring your network is in tact, is well worth the time and makes an excellent impression.

At our Friday meeting we had an opportunity to network with each other. I had the chance to talk with a few of you and learned a few things that I’d never even considered needing in my professional future. Networking isn’t always about going in with a goal. It’s having an interest in what your peers are doing and discovering. A smile paired with a hello could bring you a brand new coworker. Some of the students were anxious about networking, weren’t sure what they’d talk about. But I noticed them slowly opening up, finding comfort and confidence in discussing what they wanted to do.

Sometimes getting yourself prepared is as simple as catching up with a friend, calling your mom to tell her about classes, asking your professor questions as often as you can. Practicing with people you are comfortable with will make it easier to not only approach others, but also to get back in touch with them. Making the initiative to follow-up can feel intimidating to say the least. But in the end it shows that you are serious and dedicated to your work, and implies that you are actually interested.

A solid network to back you up is an essential if you really want to succeed. Even for the most independent person, those contacts will always be useful. I’m just here to remind you that, despite how crucial the network can be, if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, that web will string itself up easily for you. Trust me.

Make sure to stop by this weeks Career Friday meeting as well! We’ll be focusing on social media representation, and how to best communicate with your network online!

I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.