Some people hear the word “networking” and cringe. Thoughts of meeting random people and forcing a connection can make anyone feel uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be so nerve-wracking. Networking is more about asking for guidance and direction, and using these tips below, you can reshape your definition of networking and how to use it as a tool.

What is networking?

Every interaction is a networking opportunity when you think about it. You may meet someone at the store who can fix a broken window later down the road. You can also meet professionals who can help you secure a new job. However, the best way to network is to create an intentional connection with a person, organization, or business where both parties benefit. Don’t just look for a way to get ahead, as networking to get ahead will just put you further behind.  

Tips to Consider for Networking

  1. Treat every day as an interview – Jobs and volunteer positions require a letter of recommendation or reference. Treating every day like it’s an interview, and putting your best foot forward, ensures that your supervisors can positively account for your skills and work ethic.  
  2. Build bridges – Volunteers and employees cannot remain at a company forever. This is expected. But the terms under which you leave a company are yours to choose. In a world that is connected more than ever, leave companies on an amicable note. Be grateful for the experience gained. A graceless exit may be what stops you from making connections with professionals in your field. 
  3. Look for connections – Create a LinkedIn profile and follow the companies you aspire to work for. Take in the company values, but also learn how you connect to their employees. This is your chance to bridge the gap, gain valuable experiences that the company values, and make connections.
  4. Join professional organizations – Organizations like SAVMA or AL!VE create opportunities to meet and learn from professionals in your field. They also give you a common ground in which to start a conversation. By putting yourself out there, you open yourself up to learning opportunities and occasions to share your knowledge.  
  5. Attend speaking engagements – Speakers at these events usually provide a way to contact them. Take advantage of that! Follow up with the speaker, even if it’s just a thank you message, to put yourself on their radar. You never know what connections they have or can help you make. 

Overall, seek to be useful in the relationships you build.  You can practice your networking skills at the SAVMA volunteer fair Thursday, September 16th from 4 to 7pm. Keep a lookout on SAVMA’s Facebook pages to see what organizations will be participating.