Whether you're just starting out or you're an experienced professional, networking can feel intimidating. It’s hard enough to introduce yourself to someone new, but then you also have to talk about yourself, make a good impression, and figure out next steps. Thankfully, networking gets easier with practice, but having a few tips doesn’t hurt, either. Here’s some advice on how to connect with potential clients, employers, and peers from some of our very own industry team members.
Edwin Espinoza, CAD Content Developer
1. Do Your Homework
Just as you study for tests or practice for interviews, you should prepare for networking events. Look into who is hosting, sponsoring, and attending in advance. Then once on site, share your knowledge. People will be impressed that you’ve done your research.
2. Leave Them Wanting More
Handing your business card to a new contact is an easy way to help them remember you and to make yourself look professional. Go a step further and include a link to your portfolio website on the card. This will demonstrate that you take pride in your work.
Ruby Siddiqui, Assoc. AIA, Product Marketing Manager — Architecture
3. It’s Not All About You
Balance pitching yourself and getting to know the person you’re talking with. Make sure that you spend time asking others questions and learning from their perspectives (e.g., "What do you look for in an ideal design?", "What made you get into this profession?", "What is your typical workflow?"). The resulting conversation will be more memorable and enjoyable, while also providing you with valuable insights.
Eric Gilbey, RLA, ASLA, Product Marketing Manager — Landscape
4. Get Out There
Attend industry events focused on your field of work. Professional associations often host events specifically for networking purposes. As you participate in these associations, people will become familiar with your name, leading to more attention from professionals in your industry.
5. Be Authentic
While you might be looking for a new project or a job in the long run, you shouldn’t come off like you want anything other than a good conversation. People respond well to those they believe are genuine and tend to recognize quickly when you have an ulterior motive or rush through a conversation to move on to the next one.
Steve Alden, AIA, Architectural Thought Leadership Director
6. Follow Through Like NBA Star LeBron James
Networking doesn’t stop once an event is over. It’s essential to follow up with your new contacts, typically within two to three days. If they asked you to follow up in a specific way, make sure you respect that. Lastly, send them an article you find interesting that touches on one of the topics you discussed; a personal touch can make all the difference.
7. There Are No Days Off
Cultivating a network requires effort, but it tends to pay off through the creation of a great group of resources or even the path to a potential job offer. Don’t be shy about reaching out to your network for help or to introduce them to each other, too, as you may find that they start to do the same.
Test your new networking skills by attending local industry events or even just reaching out to old contacts. Need a place to start? Find a Vectorworks User Group in your area or start your own and connect with designers near you.
This article first appeared in our bimonthly academic newsletter, For the Love of Design.