The writers at Ugly Betty could have penned this episode as a required seminar for my career in Chamber work.
Ugly Betty skipped the mixer. Rationalizing it as a casual gathering, she skipped it and started the conference the next morning fresh faced and ready to go. Only to realize she was suddenly a loner in a room full of friends who had met and bonded the night before. Her instructor promptly announced it obvious that Betty didn’t take her career seriously.
“Social events are vital to the success of any group program,” says my friend Ashley Kiefert, a Director of Sales for Homewood Suites by Hilton. “You are actually able to sense in the group dynamic which people have missed the social and networking events. Networking isn’t a ‘fluff’ portion of many programs, it is the fire starter.”
Whenever I find myself fretting over an upcoming networking event, my hubby promptly reminds me that what I do during a night out at the bar is no different than a business mixer. Both situations work the same muscles and both tend to result in new friendships.
To redeem herself, Betty is challenged to make 40 contacts in one evening. She enlists the help of her well-networked co-worker, who has this wisdom to impart: The whole point of networking is to ‘gather information to advance your career.’
Step one: Forge a bond. Exchange the basics, all of which are readily available on the stack of little cards you should have in your pocket. Make sure to go a step further and leave your new contact with a memorable tidbit about yourself to make you stand out in a pile of business cards the next day.
Step two: Gather information. Fair trade, give and take, yaddah yaddah. You open up a little, your counterpart does as well and soon you are both better off for the exchange. It’s who you know after all; you want access to their knowledge and connections to, repeat after me: ‘gather information to advance your career.’
Step three: The exit strategy. Don’t spend 22 minutes of a half hour mixer with one person. Get in, trade some mutually beneficial tidbits, get out. If you played your cards right, you can sift through them the next day and have plenty of reasons to reconnect and start nurturing your new business relationship.
So, in the words of our sitcom sensei, go get ’em you lean, mean contact-gettin’ machine.