Cornell University

Networking Tips

Some people are naturally outgoing, and enjoy all aspects of networking. For others, the idea of networking can cause a lot of anxiety. They avoid networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection, and a sense of unworthiness.

The following tips apply to everyone, but will be particularly helpful for those who dread networking opportunities. Realize that successful networking is all about building intimate, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity.

  • Start small: practice networking with people you already know.
  • Volunteer at large events (Career Fair, Reunion): this gives one purpose, and you benefit from teamwork.
  • Arrive early for group events to get comfortable in the setting: you can speak with the others who are early to build confidence; essentially you will be the first group and will avoid the awkwardness of joining an established group.
  • Smile: you will look confident and approachable. Try not to be so focused and anxious that you frown, scowl, or look too serious.
  • Set a realistic networking goal: meet five new people, not everyone.
  • Be yourself: be authentic and engaging, but not artificial.
  • Ask a question: after getting the gist of a conversation, this is an easy way to engage.
  • Listen: ask people about their experiences and opinions, then listen with sincere interest.
  • Ask for introductions: while it may feel more comfortable to stick with one person, it defeats the purpose of networking. Ask if one new person knows anyone else that s/he might introduce you to.
  • Be prepared: if you tend to get tongue-tied, prepare ice-breaker questions and your personal pitch in advance. Anticipate questions you may be asked, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.
  • Do not be afraid of rejection: not everyone you meet can help you, so don’t take it personally.
  • Take risks: the person next to you at a wedding or on a plane may be a fabulous contact or know the right person to introduce you to.
  • View the Mingling: Making and Managing New Connections video on CCS Media Site for help planning your networking interactions at events and receptions.