Assume the mindset of the host.
We’ve all been there: you’re standing in the middle of a networking event sans plus-one, awkwardly fiddling with your oversize nametag, rooted to the floor. You’re uncomfortable, unsure of who to approach, and starting to wonder why you left the cozy confines of your couch for this strained shindig. “If you’re uncomfortable, in a room of 100 people, I can promise you: Other than the bartender, everybody else is uncomfortable,” says Hoey. “Everyone has an anxiety. If you start worrying about how other people feel, and think ‘let me make them comfortable,’ you can take away your own discomfort.” And, hopefully, make some new friends.
Combine your online and offline pursuits.
“This is not an era in which you can just network online or just network offline,” says Hoey. “You need to be amphibious; you need to be able to work both.” If you’re looking to connect with a particular person outside of your existing network, start by first assessing how he or she likes to communicate. “I’ve had a lot of cold introductions and direct messages because we engaged on Twitter around shared interests,” says Hoey. “It may take you sending this person an email, reposting something they put on Facebook, retweeting or mentioning something they did on Twitter. It may take multiple touchpoints for you to get assurance.” Keep at it online, so when you engage in-person, your introduction won’t feel so cold.
Say no to 911 networking.
Panicking over a pink slip? Take some time to reflect on your wants and needs before reaching out to your network with a vague ask. “You never want to be a 911 networker,” says Hoey. “I think a lot of us have been fatigued since 2009 with people coming up at the last minute.” While Hoey wholeheartedly believes in leaning on your network when you need to most, she encourages job-hunters to get targeted and specific with outreach. “If you emailed me and said there’s been a restructuring at my start-up, they’ve let all of us go in the marketing function, I’ve been managing their social media accounts and taking care of their digital strategy for the past 15 months. I’m looking for a new role that’s going to enable me to do this, and I’m currently looking at these three other start-ups, or I’m thinking of going to a midsize company, and I see you’re connected to X. Now I can help you because you’ve given me a target.” Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, but be sure to craft “I need a favor” emails with extra tact before hitting the send button.