I’ve spent a lot of time networking over the course of my career. During that time, my approach has slowly migrated from showing up to a few meetups after work to a much more intentional process providing far more value than when I first started. Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned during that time.
Do get out and meet the people in your field. Your peers can help you learn and refine your craft. Engaging them means that you are employing their experience to improve yourself.
Don’t limit yourself to your field. You can and will learn a lot from people who have vastly different career tracks than yourself. These people may also represent employment opportunities and possibly even friendships.
Do share your expertise. You may find that you have a perspective that is different than those around you and people will appreciate learning from you.
Don’t simply collect business cards. People will never remember you from a single interaction. Put those business cards to use by sending follow-up emails, finding your contacts on LinkedIn, or having lunch with them. Be sure that they hear from you shortly after your initial interaction.
Do learn about new industries. This can be particularly useful if you’re a software developer since at some point you may find yourself working in that vertical.
Don’t try to exaggerate your experience to fit in. Instead, be genuine. If you find yourself in a conversation that seems awkward or unproductive, politely remove yourself and find someone else to speak to.
Do look for people who seem to be by themselves. Like you, they may be having difficulty finding people to talk to.
Following these tips, networking can transition from a random set of encounters to an intentional path to further your own professional development.