Networking. The word itself is enough to cause some to grab their purse and head for the hills. The idea of nervously navigating a dimly lit hotel conference space with strangers and a flimsy name-badge (that keeps falling off) is just too much to fathom, especially after a long day at the office. I’m here to tell you that networking can, and should, take many nontraditional forms to make the most sense for you.
Whenever I’m afforded the opportunity to speak to PLEN students, my advice to the young women is to make meaningful connections and “network”, if you will, while doing things that you enjoy most. Whether that is joining a book club, volunteering, visiting a museum, seeing a band you like, running a marathon – whatever it is that you enjoy – should be your prime place to network. In these scenarios, you’ll already feel energized and excited, regardless of who you meet along the way. I think that these spaces will foster the best connections, dialogue, and potential prospects for networking.
The purpose behind any networking event or meeting is to create a social setting where people can openly exchange, learn from each other, and hopefully walk away with a person or company on their radar for future development. The way I “network” is on Saturdays during the fall at the football watch parties for my alma mater, Rutgers University. At these fun yet causal events, I’m always meeting new faces and walking away with a LinkedIn connection or email to follow up on, in hopes to keep in touch with my fellow Scarlet Knights. I don’t view these exchanges in any formal way or add stress to the encounters by labeling them as “networking opportunities,” but instead see them as a chance to chat with new and familiar faces of the club.
After one of our fall watch parties, I realized that another recent grad from Rutgers was consulting for my company at the time, in a different department. This connection became meaningful to me in a professional capacity and would not have been realized without cheering on my alma mater.We shared each stories from our days in New Brunswick, and were excited to learn that we lived on the same campus, shared the same major, and belonged to the same clubs. I was delighted to find that someone so close to me with so many shared experiences was right in front of me.
I ask that you take the pressure off networking, and yourself, by adopting this more relaxed approach to the term. Go into your next weekend activity and think of it as a chance to network and expand your horizons, knowing that you’re surrounded by like-minded people and potentially new colleagues.
Lindsey Santamaria is a Member Strategy Associate at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in Washington, DC. She manages two committees, Women in Cardiology and Health Care Innovation, with cardiologists from around the country. Prior to the ACC, Lindsey was the membership manager at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Lindsey also worked as a senior coordinator of membership and programming for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In this position, she managed the communication of two committees, comprised of chamber and association executives. Lindsey started her career at the Morris County Economic Development Corporation in Florham Park, New Jersey.
She is a graduate of Rutgers University, and was an associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. Lindsey has a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels Institute of Government.