Written by Kavita Karmarkar
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On November 21, EPMA organized a fireside chat event–‘The Power of Networking’, as part of EPMA’s ongoing efforts to help young professionals further their careers and learn new skills.
This roundtable discussion focused on tips and tricks to be better at networking, either for job, business, or personal development. Our guide and coach for the event was Julie Nasser. Julie is the director of business development at Marguiles Perruzzi Architects, an award-winning architecture and interior design firm located in downtown Boston. Julie has more than ten years of experience in business development, A/E/C recruiting, sales, and real estate leasing. Our venue host for the evening was Perkins Eastman. Perkins Eastman, an architecture firm with seventeen interdisciplinary offices around the globe, designs for a sustainable and resilient future, and to enhance the human experience through the built environment.
Julie coached the group on a variety of subjects such as developing networking skills, striking up easy conversations at events, finding the correct networking groups, following up after meeting at seminars and conferences, and balancing professional and business development at events.
One of the common questions shared by the team was dealing with the nervousness of going to an event, especially if you don’t know anyone or do not have a friend to accompany you. Julie guided the group through some common tricks like starting a conversation about everyday things, such as the weather and holiday/summer plans, to break the ice. A casual introduction about yourself, without focusing heavily on your work, can get the conversation flowing as well. Another very important tip is to carry your business cards with you: if you make an acquaintance with someone and get their business card, you can write to them with a few ‘possible follow-up’ topics depending on the conversation.
Making contacts and building networks should ideally be done throughout your career as you progress, and not only when you are in a job seeking or developing your business. Also, finding the correct networking groups, depending on your interests and field of work, is very important: searching on Google, asking your professors, or connecting with your colleagues and peers will give you an idea of what organizations you should consider joining. Volunteering is one of the ways that you can meet new people and build networks, while contributing in a meaningful way. Volunteering can be especially useful for job seekers and young professionals for events which might be too expensive to get into otherwise.
Another networking tip is determining how and when to follow up after meeting people at events and conferences. Reaching out through LinkedIn and by email are a few of the best ways to make contact after a couple of weeks. You can refer back to the event or conference in the message, and ask the acquaintance if they would like to meet again and discuss a topic, such as the acquaintance’s field of work. It is considered acceptable to reach out one more time if there is no response, usually in a couple of weeks. Generally, when you make a new acquaintance, it’s better not to talk about your job seeking or business development situation directly. Instead, you should get to know more about the work done by your contact. Asking people for ‘informational interviews’ is a good way to better understand people and their work. It can be especially helpful for job seekers to learn more about a company and the work culture.
The event gave participants a chance to talk about these questions openly and learn from each other’s experiences. At the end of the session, all participants got an opportunity to exchange cards/LinkedIn profiles and make new contacts.
The entire team at EPMA would like to thank our coach, Julie Nasser, for her words of wisdom and our host, Perkins Eastman for providing venue and refreshments.