It used to be that networking meant slapping a ‘Hi, my name is...’ sticker on your blazer and subjecting yourself to some lame-*ss, stuffy mixer. Mercifully, that uncomfy tactic is dying out. Yeah, you still need to get yourself out there—according to a LinkedIn survey, 85 percent of jobs in are filled through networking! But now there are smarter, more focused ways to go about building a solid roster of contacts who you can reach out to for job leads, crucial intro e-mails, industry intel, resume edits, and more. And if you make meaningful connections today, you’ll be able to call on those important contacts for years to come. Heed these updated methods for putting yourself in the path of VIPs.
OLD RULE: Meet Up IRL
NEW RULE: Slide Into Their DMs
We all know how to use social media to find people with fab gigs. But Kate Gardiner, former executive director of women’s networking site TheLi.st, suggests taking things a step further by DMing your personal rockstars. Send a message like, ‘I admire your work and wanted to share [relevant link] with you’. And don’t be creepy: Liking 200 of their pictures in one go, for instance. Also, don’t freak if there’s no response. “If a person has 1,00,000 followers, they may get 10,000 engagements a day,” says Kate Follow up on the same platform, and if it’s radio silence, she suggests looking up their number two—an assistant or business partner. If they have fewer followers, they may be more likely to respond.
OLD RULE: Invite Someone to Lunch
NEW RULE: Offer to Drop By—and Bring the Coffee
People are busy and don’t always have time to take a break midday. “So ask if you can come to them,” suggests Rachel Sklar, Co-Founder of TheLi.st. “It’s good business to be efficient and considerate. Ask if you can grab coffee or some other drink for you both on your way in.” And when you do get that hang time, bring up ways you think you might be able to work together, either right now or down the road. After your meeting, follow up with a thank-you and a note about whatever joint grand plans you two may have discussed.
OLD RULE: Score a Meeting With the Boss
NEW RULE: Befriend the Boss’s Assistant
“Networking should be not only top-down but all around,” says Shelley Zalis, Founder of the women’s networking space The Girls’ Lounge. That’s especially true for women. According to McKinsey and LeanIn’s 2016 study, Women in the Workplace, women in entry-level positions have fewer substantive interactions with people in senior leadership roles than their male counterparts do, meaning you’re more likely to meet an intern at your dream company than the CEO. But when you do, don’t just blow her off. She may not have a high-powered position today, but could be destined for greatness, advises Sklar. So be kind and considerate, and show an interest in her. Good vibes never hurt, and it may pay off professionally in the long run.
OLD RULE: Ask Someone If You Can Pick Their Brain
NEW RULE: Simply State What You Want Directly
Banish the words pick your brain from your vocabulary. “It’s not a real request, and it just evokes someone digging into your skull with their fingernails,” says Sklar. Instead, make a super-specific ask up front. If you’re trying to open a small business and you know she has experience doing so, you can say, ‘I’d like to ask you about the essential elements of a business plan. Do you have time to discuss this?’ Having a goal for the chat gives you a better shot at landing the meeting.
OLD RULE: Seek Biz Contacts in Profesh Settings
NEW RULE: Make New Connects Wherever
To be a successful networker, says Kate, “be open to finding professional connections in any environment.” If you are out at a boozy brunch and happen to meet someone in your field, find the right moment to segue into a convo about common career interests, industry buzz, and if appropriate, word of any job openings out there. But keep in mind: not everyone wants to talk about work outside of work. If you sense the person is cooling on the topic, pump the breaks. Then, when you split, ask to exchange e-mail addresses or phone numbers so you can pick things up again later. Just double-check your spelling and save the number correctly with details, so you’re not left wondering, who the hell is ‘Jasmine Arora Brunch’.