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How to Effectively Network

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Collecting a stack of business cards and adding countless people on LinkedIn aren’t useful. You can go to a networking event and make new connections, but that doesn’t mean you were effective. You might have a stack of business cards at the end of the night, but would you be comfortable contacting those individuals in the future? In a month from now, would they even remember you?

Essentially, networking means you are looking to make professional friends. A friend is someone who you talk to when you are having problems and a person you are willing to do favors for. You cannot expect to meet someone for five minutes and then ask that person for a job on the spot. Would you treat a casual friend that way? Building a network is a process that happens over a period of time. Networking is not about the number of people you meet, but about the quality of those connections that you build.

Effective networking starts with a goal in mind: What do you want to get out of meeting these new people?

Especially when starting out of college, you are networking because you want connections to get you a job. However, you can’t just go up to people and start asking them if they have any job openings. Instead, make your goal to learn about their company, and ask questions about the company and what they are currently working on. Maybe, you’re just networking so that you can see different perspectives of your industry. Getting to know others in roles similar to yours may give you some fresh ideas on how to tackle an issue you’re dealing with.

As with building friendships, with networking it is easiest to build a relationship through multiple interactions over a period of time. This could occur through a monthly networking event or a professional organization that you are active in. If you meet an exceptionally interesting person, consider asking to meet him or her for coffee to learn more about his/her profession.

If you meet professionals at a networking event at school, consider asking them to come speak to your peers in a panel discussion or presentation. This will give you more time to get to know your new connections; they will be more likely to remember you, and you can help expand your peers’ networks as well.

Individuals you are comfortable reaching out to make ideal network connections. Usually, this occurs after you have gotten to know a person a little bit better. This could be after meeting at the same networking functions over time, or it could happen after a coffee date. Professional networks, just like your friend networks, do not grow overnight. In order to effectively network, you will have to continue to show up at events and continue to reach out and check in to build your connections. Over time, you can build a network that can help you solve any problem.

Michelle Abuda

J. Michelle Abuda earned her BS in Management Information Systems and MS in Business Analytics from the Naveen Jindal School of Management. Currently, she works at Crowe Horwath as a Regulatory Compliance Risk Consultant in the Columbus, Ohio office. During her time at JSOM, she was actively involved as a leader on the Dean's Council. She helped found the JSOM Book Club, as well as the TEDxUTD Club. Read more articles

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