Networking Know-how

When I started working at Great Lakes Center for Youth Development after I graduated from NMU, I didn’t have a professional network. My coworkers would talk about our partners, sponsors, donors and members, while I would just smile and nod. I had no idea who these people were, or why they cared to support GLCYD.

Flash forward five years to now, and my network has grown to include individuals from across the Upper Peninsula and the State of Michigan. Now, I’m often asked “Victoria, how do you know so many people?” Well, here are a few tips I feel really helped me grow my network:

  • Join a networking group – I’m lucky to have found 40 Below: Marquette County Young Professionals. I enjoy meeting members of my community that are my age and are interested in staying in the area. Unlike Business After Hours/Business After 5 (which are great too! I’ll talk about these later in the post.), networking groups have members that routinely attend, so you’re able to really get to know and build trust with these people. There are a number of networking groups throughout the U.P., with different focuses.
  • Attend networking events – Business After Hours/Business After 5 are common network events held in communities across the U.P. These are a great opportunity to meet business and community leaders. Many conferences have networking events too. Go to as many as you can fit into your schedule. I’ve found it motivating to set a small, attainable goal for each event I attend (ie. I will talk to one person I don’t know) to help me get outside of my social circle at networking events.
  • Have a networking buddy – Networking groups and events can be awkward. It’s uncomfortable walking into a room full of people and realizing you don’t know anyone. I’ve learned that having a buddy to meet up with at the event can help ease the anxiety of trying to find someone you know. It also helps create new connections, as it’s unlikely that you and your buddy have the exact same network.
  • Know your elevator statement – I’m not talking about your organization’s standard elevator statement; have one specifically for the event you’re attending. I’ve found it helpful to have one thing that I want everyone to know. Right now, mine is that GLCYD is accepting nominations for the U.P. Service Awards. If you see me at an event, it’s likely I will tell you about it. Having that one thing to talk about can open up conversations with people you don’t know in a way that is comfortable and compelling.

I hope these tips help you navigate networking more confidently. If you’re ever in need of a networking buddy, please call us. Our staff regularly attends events across the Upper Peninsula.

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