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How to Play the Networking Game

Personal branding expert Melanie Denny outlines ways to gain visibility and create new opportunities for yourself.

Melanie Denny

Rule number one: Learn how to golf.

Okay, maybe it’s not golf, maybe it’s going to lunch or happy hour or an awards ceremony. Whatever the auxiliary activities are that involve colleagues, just go.

“It’s so important because so much of what happens at work actually happens outside of work. That is networking.” says Melanie Denny, a personal branding consultant and international career speaker. Many people want to separate their personal time from office hours, but forming a career path is not a nine-to-five job. “It is important to be present to get some of the outside information you may not be getting [at the office] and to be a part of the conversations and decisions.”

Of course, don’t cross boundaries, Denny warns, meaning you may not be invited to your manager’s golf outing, so rule number one is actually to have respect. Rule number two: Build a good relationship with the people around you, and you can do that by being your authentic self.

The same rule applies when attending a networking event. Be respectful of the people you meet, be genuine, but also have a plan. According to Denny there are three things to do when walking into a networking event full of strangers:

1.)  Express interest in the people you meet. Keep the conversation about them, asking them about their journey. “It’s a good strategy to get to know people and to break the ice,” Denny says. “When you make the conversation about the other person they’ll open up and want to talk further, and you’ll be memorable.”

2.)   When people ask you about your job, make it interesting. “Don’t just say, ‘I’m a manager.’ Give it some life, make it a story that is conversational and intriguing,” Denny advises. 

3.)   When speaking with someone, make sure to get their contact information and follow up within 24 hours—because if you do so a week later, they won’t remember you. “Jot down something on their business card that you talked about to make sure the follow up is relevant.”Ppwln Audience QuestionsPMMI Packaging & Processing Women's Leadership Network breakfast

 Whatever the gameplan at a networking event, just make sure there is intent behind it. It may be a goal of talking to three people that you connect with, or getting five business cards, or even just winging it.  “It’s okay to just go in and see what happens, as long as you are authentic,” Denny says.


Leveraging LinkedIn

 In today’s digital age, networking is not only about in-person meetings, but also connecting online. And the best business tool for that is LinkedIn. Denny is an expert LinkedIn strategist and says the first and most important thing to do is to optimize your profile. Beyond a job title, make sure you use key words and industry jargon. “What is your value proposition and your unique skills? A lot of that stuff is searchable,” she says. “If you optimize your profile you get more visibility automatically just because of the keyword-driven algorithm.”

Social media requires engagement, so you need to login and interact at least three times per week. Just comment on posts, which also drives visibility, Denny says, noting that LinkedIn is a great way to meet other people in your field. “Use advanced search features to search industries, job titles, or even filter by geographic area and reach out to people to say you’d like to have a conversation with them. People love it.”

Or, use LinkedIn to find out more about the person you just met at the networking event in order to carry on a conversation. According to Denny, LinkedIn is easier and better than e-mail. “With LinkedIn you can carry on a conversation through a post or an article. There are so many hidden gems on LinkedIn in terms of the opportunity to connect and network.”

Regardless of the way you network—via in person or online—Denny says women must first be confident with who they are as a professional. “It’s good to be strong and voice your opinions, but you have to do the work within yourself first.”

This article originally appeared in the Voices of Women in Packaging and Processing report developed by the OpX Leadership Network and PMMI's Packaging & Processing Women's Leadership Network. Click here to download the report.







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