Industry News

Future Forward Networking

HOW do I develop strong relationships that will support my career into a future of uncertainty and fast-paced change?

Short answer: HOW Design Live.

WHY?

Because in the 21st century, there is no such thing as job security. That means you must take control of your career.

That means you must strategically build your network.

HOW?

  • By learning what other designers are doing. 
  • By following designers who are going places and going with them
  • By knowing whose career you want to model your own after and studying them.

Enter HOW Design Live, THE opportunity to mingle with the designers you admire and to practice that all-important art of making connections (a.k.a. networking).

Because in the 21st century, relationships are everything and there’s no better way to make connections (and make the strongest possible impression) than in person in real time.

Networking is one of the best things about HOW Design Live, where you can go to find your people, your community.

Don’t be put off by the word, “networking.”

WHY?

Because networking isn’t what you think it is, which I explained in my 2017 HOW Design Live session, “Tips and Tricks for 21st Century Networking,” (watch it on YouTube here.)

Networking is connecting with other people, learning about others, finding things you have in common. In a word, networking is making friends.

You might even strike up a conversation with someone who needs you now, because people who need new resources go to conferences looking for then.

In my session, I outlined how, in the 21st century, networking starts online – whether on the Internet or while waiting “online” for anything, a bagel, a cup of coffee, even the ladies room!

All you really need is curiosity.

WHAT?

Approach every event as a research expedition, from your company holiday party to HOW Design Live. Instead of talking about yourself; use curiosity to learn as much as you can about the people, companies, projects and opportunities you encounter.

What do you want to know? What information would help you serve your company or your clients better? Make a list of questions you want answers to, then go ask them.

Questions are key because they represent your genuine interest and desire to learn about the needs of others.

In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to start now to practice curiosity so that when you get to HOW Design Live in May, you’ll be more relaxed. So here are 4 best practices for networking with curiosity:

  1. Learn something. You can learn from everyone — find out what they know that you don’t.
  2. Give something. Listen for what they need. Then share what comes to mind. Don’t withhold your ideas. They’re not precious or original! You can even offer your own services, if appropriate.
  3. Offer to network on their behalf. Ask the people you meet, “Based on our chat, how will I know if I’m speaking to someone you might want to meet?”
  4. Ask permission to follow up. Ask their preferred method of communication — some people never do email, others do email only! Then in your follow up, thank them for their time and anything they shared with you.

Of course, in the 21st century, a lot of networking is done online, especially on LinkedIn. Just keep in mind that without an opportunity to meet in person, it will usually take longer to develop a relationship and that relationship may not be as solid. In online environments, you need to participate and contribute more if you are to make an real impression and be more than a blur.

And finally, remember that networking is not about getting; it’s about giving and building relationships over time. There’s no better time to start than now. And there’s no better place to practice, than HOW Design Live. I hope to see you in Chicago, May 7-10, 2019.

by Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com