29 Lessons I Learned After a Year of Networking
A year ago I was stuck in a rut. I needed a change but I didn’t know what. I also didn’t have much time because I was still in business school and working full time. But, I knew I needed to do something differently in the year ahead. If this sounds like where you are at right now, keep reading.
Before January 1st, 2011, I went to a seminar at my work about networking. I am so glad I did because there is one thing that stuck with me: 4X4 Networking. Each month, I would meet with four people that I already know but would like to get to know even better and four people that I don’t know but I would like to get to know.
A year of networking sounded hard. But, I knew that if I blogged about it AND I had you all waiting to hear how it was going, that I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t let you down! So because of you I started, because of you I blogged about it and because of you I finished what has been an amazing year of growth, learning and change.

A Year of Networking

When I look back on myself a year ago, I see how scared I was to try something new and meet new people. Today, I see nothing standing in my way of my own success and crystal clear goals and dreams that I want for my life.  What a difference a year can make!
Today, I want to share with you some of the important lessons that I learned throughout this year of networking. I had a lot of coffee, a lot of phone dates and lot of wine.  It was a blast and I am so glad that I did it!
  1. Don’t forget to follow up. If someone told you something that stuck with you, thank them later. This will mean a lot to them!
  2. Don’t make personal networking phone calls at your desk.  Walk outside where your co-workers can’t hear you.
  3. At the end of a meeting, always ask for another referral that they could introduce you to.
  4. Be unique. If you start a blog, don’t write about topics that are already all over the internet.
  5. If someone forgets to call you or answer their phone, be polite and offer another time you are available. Your professionalism will win them over when they feel like an idiot for forgetting all about you.
  6. Always be ready. Most of the time we figured out the best time to meet over email. But one man just called me out of the blue and wanted to chat.  Fortunately, I had my list of interview questions all ready to go and I still made a great impression.
  7. Write everything in one journal. If you don’t, you will be scribbling notes down on hundreds of different papers and you will lose them.  Trust me, I am still looking for some of them!
  8. People really do want to help! EVERYONE I emailed for an informational interview emailed me back!  How awesome is that!
  9. Be ready with your quick elevator pitch!  Most people don’t get requests for informational interviews often and they will definitely be interested in exactly who you are (because you are so unique) so be ready to impress them with your fabulous elevator pitch!
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s business card at a networking event. You may feel bad because it takes away from what they are saying or you don’t want to look like the person who is just out to give away your own business card. But, you will definitely be happy when you leave with a new connection to network with!
  11. I am an introvert but no one that I did an informational interview with would ever know it.
  12. You have to work hard to stay in touch with your friends and family. I can always do better staying in touch but this challenge definitely gave me the reminder to stay in touch with those that are close to me.
  13. Have your informational interview questions on a different paper/computer screen than what you are going to take notes on.  If you don’t, you will either miss an important piece of information or look like an idiot because you lost your train of thought and can’t remember any questions to ask because you can’t find that piece of paper with all the questions:)
  14. Google is a great resource to find people to interview.  All you need is a name and email address and you have a potential contact!
  15. Some people are negative but don’t let that get you down.  Even though you are positive that you know the field that you want to enter, some people you talk to will try to talk you out of it.  Be polite but don’t listen to them.
  16. Even though I didn’t personally meet the producers of all of the amazing podcasts that I listened to this year, I feel like I did. There is so much that you can learn from interviews and podcasts that it will feel like you are networking.  And since you get to know people this way, it makes it easier to reach out and connect with them or ask them a question which is what I recently did.  I had no fear because I had been listening to their podcast for so long and felt like I knew them very well!
  17. If you are going to an event to hear an amazing person speak that you would LOVE to meet, try to contact or meet them before they speak instead of waiting until afterwards when there are swarms of people waiting. (Note taken from personal experience trying to meet Keith Ferrazzi at UCSD event. As I was getting the courage to meet him after the event, he told the audience that he would have to leave right away and that we should have come beforehand instead. Darnit!  Maybe next time Keith!:)
  18. You don’t have to join every professional membership society that you attend. It is OK to check it out and attend but not become a member.
  19. You will be surprised at how much you actually help other people rather than them helping you.  Many of my networking conversations turned into me giving advice instead.  I love this!
  20. Don’t wait to meet that person that you really want to meet. I was so happy I met Natalie from The Bobby Pin before she moved away from San Diego.  If we hadn’t done it when we did, I never would have met her.  Don’t wait, just do it now.
  21. Don’t be afraid to speak on the phone with people that you only know through social media.  It definitely helps to put a voice to a twitter handle! (So loved speaking with and meeting ChaChanna over the phone!)
  22. Each month, plan ahead with who you want to network with and what days in your calendar you have open.  If you don’t do it ahead of time, you won’t do it.
  23. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Leave some nights free in the week or you will be drained.
  24. Butterflies in the stomach are normal, even if it is only an informational interview.
  25. You HAVE to find someone to keep you accountable. If I wasn’t blogging about it, I never would have done it.
  26. Don’t forget to do informational interviews inside of your current company. This is a great way to learn more about different areas and what direction you want to head in the future!
  27. Keep track. From day 1, keep one place where you write who you met and what you learned.  If you don’t, you will get too busy to remember.
  28. Always send a thank you email/hand written note. No excuses.
  29. Always be ready for the movies. Or, ok maybe just YouTube. You never know when a camera might be around to interview you!
I am looking forward to next year, when I will continue this challenge, but do it a little differently. My goal this year is to interview other Classy Career Girls and record it so that you can listen too!  Now, I am not exactly sure how to do that quite yet but it is a goal and I think I can figure it out, right?  It can’t be that hard!
So, I am looking for other fabulous career girls to interview who have amazing advice and stories to share that we can all learn from!  I am thinking maybe a podcast or google hangout?  Not sure yet, but it will happen. I already have a few people in mind but if you have an amazing story that you would love to share, I would love to interview you and learn from you!

Join me in a year of networking! What could you learn? 

Hi, I'm Anna!

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