New Generation Initiatives

The Value of Networking: One Connection Can Make All the Difference

Written by: developer

by Bernadette Maisel, Space Foundation Director – Customer Relations and New Generation Program Lead

As a young professional, networking seems to be the common theme at many events I attend. Often, I attend these events just because there is a time set in the agenda for networking. I like to think of networking as an investment into my career. If I meet just one person at every event I attend, I slowly start to build my network of connections. Each of these connections becomes a resource as I move along in my career. Networking has helped me learn how to describe my organization’s mission, concisely develop my “elevator speech,” practice creating and delivering presentations and become more confident speaking in public.

Here is my version of Networking 101!

Get involved!
Join a local professional group in your area. It’s easy to think the more you join the better, but if you join too many you may burn yourself out quickly. Join a group that shares similar goals and interests, and has events that you will be genuinely interested in attending. Make a plan to attend at least one event a month. Before you attend, make yourself knowledgeable about the organization hosting the event, the topic being presented or the audience in attendance, and be sure you know the appropriate attire for any event you plan to attend.

Introduce yourself!
You made it to your first event but now what? Don’t wait for people to come to you, instead go introduce yourself. It can be very intimidating to walk into a room of people and not see any familiar faces, but this is where you have to go out of your comfort zone and start the conversation. People love to be asked questions, it’s an ice breaker for them, as well as for you. Determine what you are confident talking about. Maybe it’s easier for you to comment about the weather, or maybe you are comfortable enough asking what brings them to this particular event. The most important advice I can give here is to just be yourself!

Follow up!
So you came home from your first event with a stack of business cards, but now what? While details are still fresh in your mind, I find it helpful to jot down little notes on each card to remind myself something about that person, so I can be sure I know who I am following up with. A brief “nice to meet you” email, or even a connection on LinkedIn, can help keep the conversation going and ideally create your new business connection, or even personal connection. I have learned that the people I have made the strongest lasting connections with are the ones I have followed up with after each event. Over time, and with practice, networking will become second nature and you’ll do it without even thinking about it. You will start to see new opportunities for networking, such as on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street, or in the grocery store checkout line.  

Building and maintaining your network is a continuous process. You should be constantly adding to your network, but make sure you focus on staying in touch with your existing contacts and building those relationships. The most effective relationships and connections will be the ones that are mutually beneficial.

Learn about Space Foundation New Generation Initiatives here.

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2016 (Volume: 15, Issue: 8).