Networking: The Flour That Raises The Cake of Your Career

Here at GovLoop we have a sweet spot for networking, so much that we dedicated an entire online training to it, titled, “Become a Networking Ninja: Tips to Better Networking”.

As Catherine Andrews, GovLoop’s Director of Content puts it, “Networking is like the flour that raises the cake of your career; it makes the foundation of your career.”

But what’s the reward of baking a cake? Things can get messy and you might just want to throw in the apron and call it quits. However, there a lot of great benefits to networking, like learning about new developments in your field or a field of interest, the solution to a problem you may be facing at work, and ultimately, landing the next the job.

So how do you do it? Here are a few tips to bake your best networking cake:

The Fluff:

What is it that will make your presence in the room appear fuller? Or that won’t have folks “looking off into the distance with a desperate look in their eyes,” as Andrews puts it. Andrews recommends eight tips to get the most from your next networking event:

  1. Follow up – Set reminders to follow up with people the same day you register for your event, allowing yourself 3-5 days to avoid the risk of them forgetting who you are.

Hint: Immediately write information on the back of business cards about what the contact needed and what you can offer them.

  1. Connect people – Be inclusive; help other people meet the people they need to know.
  1. Flip the script – Play the opposite role. If you’re an introvert, put yourself out there. If you’re an extrovert, try listening more.

Hint: Try dividing your time into thirds – listening 1/3 of the time + asking questions 1/3 of the time + talking 1/3 of the time.

  1. Don’t talk to your friends – They are your crutch at events.
  1. Say hello! – The scariest part of networking is approaching people. Just start by saying hello but don’t forget to prepare a graceful exit strategy.
  1. Set goals – This will give you something to measure success against, but be sure to be realistic and don’t just set goals for meeting people. Ask yourself, “Do I want to learn more about products, do I want a new career path, or am I trying to promote by business?” Structure your goals around the answers to those questions.
  1. Dress for success – Have a go-to outfit for networking that makes you feel powerful and comfortable and, when in doubt, overdress.
  1. Get enough sleep – You can’t be at the top of your networking game, if you’re tired.


The Foot:

As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” So how do people know how much you care when you bake a cake? When you put your foot in it!

Here are 6 and 2/3 ways to care about networking, according to Michael Lawyer, Special Assistant to the Chief Human Capital Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

  1. Care about your karma – Think about all of the people who have invested in you to get you to where you are today. Who cut you a break – or a slice – and took care of you? Share that attention and caring with others, “because no matter where you are there’s always someone who’s trying to learn something you just learned,” said Lawyer.
  1. Care about being easy to work with – Make you’re potential connection’s life easier. Whatever you can do to make yourself easier to work with, do it.
  1. Caring about the unimportant people, because there are no unimportant people – “Stay away from searching for the top dogs,” warned Lawyer. “Solutions to new problems often live at the edges of your network…the people at the center are the deal makers who are invested in the way things are now and challenges to the status quo aren’t solved by people who live there.”
  1. Care about the person you’re meeting – Spend more time asking what you can do for them, rather than only thinking about what they can do for you
  1. Care about the net in your network – Don’t have a weak network – where everyone only knows each other through you. When you introduce people to each other, you reap the benefits of having them talk about how awesome you are as well as viewing you as someone who is investing in them.
  1. Care about the work – Lawyer declared this to be very true in government – or anywhere where people are working because it’s where their heart is. “Networking is a great thing for nerds – when you can find somebody else who is nerdy about the thing that you are nerdy about, whether it’s your bow-tie collection or whether it’s that piece of public service you get to work on, there’s a level of excitement and level of connection there that’s authentic and it makes the networking much more valuable, real, and makes you the type of person they want to spend time with.”

2/3: Start building your network before you need it.


The Sugar-Free Icing:

How do you maintain your weight while eating cake? Choose a sugar-free icing! The free tool to help you maintain relationships is best known as LinkedIn – used to create first impressions, show your spirit, impress with search engine optimization SEO), and more.

Asha Aravindakshan, Operations Director for Ashoka’s Global Talent Division, walked us through how to get value out of a LinkedIn profile. Here are some not-so-well-known attributes about the social media platform and how it can help you follow-through after a networking event:

  1. URL’s can be customized by your name – check out a how-to blog post here.
  2. You can deactivate the ‘notify your network’ button for the summary section – you should only want major changes to appear on your connections’ home feed.
  3. When entering your company name – use the associated page, “so the logo will show and it looks more professional,” clarified Aravindakshan.

  4. Do not use the connect feature in groups or contact suggestion page as it will send a generic message in the connection request.
  5. Digitize your rolodex – transfer your business cards under the tab for relationship and content info under the contact info of each connection.

Aravindakshan also recommended creating a 30-seconds or less elevator pitch. This should answer the questions of: who you are, what you want to do, and what you need help on. Keep it short, memorable, and specific.

Think you’re ready to have your cake and eat it too? View the on-demand version of this training here to further learn how to embrace those awkward moments, build lasting relationships, and how to follow-through. Happy networking!

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