Career Link: How to Work a Room and Make Networking Purposeful

Are you good at networking? Do you set goals for what you want to accomplish during an event? These are important questions to ask yourself as you address the networking activities in your life and career. It’s a lot easier to like something when you’re good at it. Here are a few tips of how to work an event and have meaningful networking:

  1. Be selective. Choose networking activities where you can identify your objective of being there. I have run into many “serial networkers” that show up anytime, any place. This isn’t necessarily bad from a social perspective, but it can limit your credibility when trying to network for a specific purpose.
  2. Have a goal. Once you have figured out an objective (e.g., you identify one person in particular that you’d like to meet or spend time with at the event), relax. Nobody likes the pushy person at a networking event. Take your time to meet and connect with additional people (secret: groups of two are usually easier to approach), and work your way through the room until you eventually connect with whom you came to see.
  3. Set realistic expectations. My goal at any networking event is typically to accomplish at least one thing. Sometimes you over-achieve and the event flows very smoothly, and other times an event can be a grind. Regardless of the pace, if you leave with something – a business card, a lead, a great conversation – you have had success!

Aside from these specific networking guidelines, my main point is this: You get from networking what you put into it, and it’s important to put quality into it!

Think about some of the networking events you’ve attended recently. I’m sure you’ve met a few people who look for all kinds of help, but are never interested in returning the favor. You do not want to be this type of person. Networking is a two-way street, and people tend to be much more willing to help when you lead with a sincere desire to help them as well.

As an example, I have a friend who I consider to be one of the best networkers I know. Her name is Dina Simon, and she leads the charitable organization, Simon Says Give. When interacting with Dina, she will ask how you are, tell you how things are for her, and she may or may not ask you for advice, a connection, etc. But at some point during the conversation, she will look you straight in the eye and ask, “What can I do to help you?” And if there is something she can do, she does it…simple as that.

That, in my opinion, is a great way to network. Be someone who is always willing to help. It will also strengthen your networking relationships! I consider it the Golden Rule of Networking. “Network unto others as you would have them network unto you.” Aka, you get out of it what you put into it. What kind of networking are you looking to attract?

Chris Ohlendorf is the Chief Talent Officer at Versique Executive Search and Consulting, and McKinley Consulting. He can be reached at