How To Network (It's Not As Bad As You Think!)

Does the word “networking” make you want to cringe? Are you one of those people who hide in the bathroom to avoid awkward conversation? We get it. We are too. 

But that doesn’t mean we can’t, or don’t, make connections that are important to growing She Spends or our own careers. Networking for millennials, especially young women, looks different than it used to. Check out our tips and tricks to making connections without cringing below. 

  1. It’s helpful to have a specific project or thing you’re working on to bring up when you make connections. Whether that’s a pottery website, a photography side hustle, a dog walking business or a new spreadsheet system for your day job, it doesn’t matter. It gives you something to dig into with your new connections and helps them to feel open to sharing their own projects. 
  2. You can network anywhere, but it’s best done where you’re most comfortable. I’ve met women at my barre studio, for instance. I’m there every week and it’s super focused on community, so it was easy to open up and share with others what I do in my day job. Gyms and fitness studios are great places to meet people, but so are language or ceramics classes. Got a dog? You can probably meet someone new at your local dog park. Volunteer groups, like the New York Junior League (which Amanda is a part of!), are also a great place to meet potential connections. There are, of course, many online communities you can get involved with, including my personal favorite, Ladies Get Paid. I’ve met so many cool women through that Slack group. 
  3. Be a connector. When you meet someone whose work doesn’t really relate to yours, all is not lost. Think of friends or family who may benefit from making a connection with this person. Offering to pass their information on is not only something kind to do, but it also puts the connector — and the person you connect them with — in a similar frame of mind. If you need help, you can ask if they know anyone who could assist you. 
  4. Don’t be afraid to talk to competitors. This is a lesson I learned early in my career. I followed a woman who wrote healthcare articles for a competing company on Twitter, and she followed me back. Months later, we met at a conference and became fast friends. Being able to talk to her about similar gripes on our beat was invaluable. She also helped me to realize that I needed a raise, and gave me that extra nudge to finally ask. While she and I no longer cover the same subject, we swap books and grab drinks from time to time. When going into a networking situation, it’s helpful to not only be open to professional connections, but also friendships. 
  5. When someone gives you their business card information, be sure to input it into a spreadsheet. This system ensures you have all of their contact information without keeping the card. I also like to put a little note in my spreadsheet about our conversation. When I call the person in the future, I sound thoughtful and the ask sounds more genuine. 
  6. If you’re asking for a one-on-one meeting, keep in mind that many industry folks don’t have a ton of time. Offer to take them out for coffee or a drink, which might compel the potential connection to meet up with you. 
  7. What are your favorite ways to network? What’s your most surprising connection? Share with us on Instagram or Twitter by using the hashtag #shespends. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #23

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