Networking is something most of us admit is important for our careers, but find often unappealing. At times networking events can feel fruitless and unproductive. For some, such events may even conjure memories of conversations that rang superficial with insincere offers of support.
We Shape Tech Zürich hosted its first ever Networking Circles Event to bring women in tech together, help facilitate strong personal networks and encouraging diversity in the field. The event offered attendees an alternative format to the typical networking meet and greet: an intimate circle of women matched based on preferences.
Over forty women gathered at Impact Hub Zürich for the kick-off event. As women arrived the room was bubbling with energy, positivity and curiosity. During a short welcome presentation guidelines for offering feedback within the circles were provided: feedback should be offered within the context of personal experiences instead of recommending what others should do. A firm no judgement policy was also established, and reminder that the circles are intended to be a safe place where members can share openly.
Affirmed by these parameters, participants met with their personal networking circle of 4-5 women for initial introductions. Within every circle each member was given ten minutes to share about their history, professional and personal goals and receive questions. With the scope of building long-term connections and cultivating trust participants were asked to commit to meeting with their circle members at least once a month for four months. The positive energy unleashed while the circles engaged in conversation flowed over to a inspiring feedback session which was followed by a lovely àpero.
We Shape Tech received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the event. With such encouraging feedback a second round of Networking Circles has been planned for later this year. If you’d like to join and be part of an intimate networking experience, please see the contact information at the bottom of this post.
Many participants were especially grateful for the structured networking interactions. However, not all networking events are as easy to navigate. While some individuals possess a natural or learned acumen for connecting for others the ‘how to’ is less inherent. To help us all diversify our skills, we’ve gathered tips from seasoned networkers in the We Shape Tech community to share with you. We hope these tips will help make your next networking experience fruitful and positive!
For Céline Tykve, Strategic Communications Lead & Storyteller at Impact Hub Zurich, who identifies herself as an introvert, networking does not come naturally. Entering a room full of strangers can feel intimidating and overwhelming. To overcome this Céline likes to have a plan in place before attending an event. She says start small— “plan to speak to three people: one person you know and two you do not.” Take advantage of the connections you have at the event and ask them to introduce you to someone new.
Set Clear Goals & Be Authentic
Project Lead of Kickstart Accelerator, Patricia Schlenter has personally experienced the benefits of having a clear goal and being authentic while networking. She suggests to “start networking before you need it and ask yourself what your goals are when you participate in networking meetings.” Being mindful of your goals Patricia says “will help you select the right groups/events that will help you get what you are looking for.” She points out that while seem meetings are about building business connections others “are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering.” Her final piece of advice is a reminder “that networking is about being genuine and authentic, helping others and building trusting relationships.”
Smile & be open
Although smiling may seem like an obvious thing, Technical Project Manager, Manjit Sagoo says, that it is “easy to forget this when we are out of our comfort zone.” We have 3-4 seconds to make a first and lasting impression. Smiling immediately communicates warmth and friendliness making others feel more comfortable to approach us. Manjit suggests “to be open to the experience.” If we come with an open mind we are more likely to have positive interactions.
Grab a Drink
For Media & PR Specialist at Impact Hub Zürich and Kickstart Accelerator, Simone Bächler, networking is an essential part of her job. When attending an event alone Simone likes to start by getting an apèro. She shares that in her experience bars at networking events are a great place to begin conversations. While waiting for your drink you can easily start a small chat with the person waiting next to you. She also offers that “having something to hold in your hand can make you feel more secure” in a room full of strangers. To be clear, your drink does not have to be alcoholic!
Valentina S. Velandia, a gender diversity and inclusion consultant, is a networking expert and coach. She advises that when you make a networking connection “the follow-up email/call should be as targeted as possible.” Valentina also offers the friendly reminder to send LinkedIn requests with a tailored message.
Finally, Dagmar Muth an Agile Collaboration Coach and Product Owner, suggests to volunteer at a “community event, conference or other non-profit activity that is related to your field of expertise.” She advises that “this gives you visibility earns and respect from your peers.” Volunteering opens doors for us to connect with like-minded people outside of our network of colleagues. Volunteering does not require huge commitment, Dagmar says it could simply involve “helping to clean up the venue after an event took place.”