Networking 101: Real-Life Tips on How to Upgrade Your Circle’s Value

Quick, smart tips for the young professional just getting started

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The age-old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still rings true for many opportunities for your prospective career. Clear goals and strategy can both be smart ways to make your network work in your favor especially at a time when the world is so connected by social media and the Internet.

Frances Harris-Burke, Ph.D., is the regional director of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction which provides leadership and organizational support for school districts in the North Carolina’s Triad area. Dr. Harris-Burke partners with district superintendents to solve problems that face the faculty and students. And Nandi Shareef who is the founder of the Shareef Group, which is a boutique learning and development consultancy that provides talent and career development solutions in times of change. In addition, Shareef works with individuals to improve their performance in their chosen careers.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Harris-Burke and Shareef, who share advice on vital face-to-face encounters, simple business etiquette and your online personas.

BlackEnterprise.com: A lot of people, especially young professionals, don’t want to be labeled as “thirsty” or “pressed,” both of which are negative terms engrained in the current millennial culture. How do they manage their networking relationships without being too pushy?

Harris-Burke: As a young, motivated career seeker, I think the best way to maintain a positive networking relationship is to be aware of your professional demeanor and recognize boundaries. Most professionals get a little bit annoyed when young people they admire come across as too aggressive and assertive. I believe a relationship has to be built, which means it requires multiple opportunities for people to see your strengths and weaknesses in different settings. You simply want to be mature and professional at all times.

What do you consider healthy networking and what should a person keep in mind?

Shareef: Healthy networking is all about setting clear goals and objectives and then identifying actions in order to fulfill that strategy. Networking is relative and oftentimes you’ll read books and blogposts about [networking], but it’s really subjective to each person’s goals. Also, always remember your goals. If it is to leave the company or individual better than it was when you started, then do that. If longevity is your goal, then your goal should be building credibility. Ask yourself, “What’s my end game.

What is the appropriate length of time to follow up with someone?

Harris-Burke: It is appropriate to send a correspondence about two or three days after you have been in the presence of the person you are trying to get to know to serve as a reminder.  You want to thanks them for their time and reinforce the conversation you had with them by using bullet points.  You always want to make an offer to meet with them again in the near future or to serve as a resource for them if there is an opportunity to do so.  You want to let them know that you are pleased to be able to get to know them in support of your professional growth.

What are important tips in utilizing your social media presence?

Shareef: A lot of people speak about not having drunk pictures online, but that’s not the only problem. Be careful what you’re tweeting, especially when using a hashtag that a [business] owns, and don’t ever speak negatively about your company. I utilize my Twitter and LinkedIn together, which means whatever I post on LinkedIn it also posts to Twitter. And, when I tweet independently my aim is to say something positive and impactful. It’s just a rule of thumb for me to try to keep things positive. Always have a little bit of discretion about yourself and professional pictures. Your life is not mutually exclusive, our generation pulls everything together.

What is the proper way for an intern to make an impression without overstepping their boundaries or appearing to be a know-it-all?

Harris-Burke: Always be aware of the policies and procedures for the workplace.  I would try to get my hands on a copy of what is acceptable in the work environment, be willing to accept feedback, both done verbally and nonverbally, and remember not take things personally because I am in a learning model. Be a sponge and soak in every opportunity to learn and to be a quick learner because you don’t know it all. I would “get rid of the attitude that I have arrived” and think about this as a blessing and an opportunity to advance my skills, knowledge and network so I can establish a career because of the outcomes/results of the internship.

How should a person conduct themselves at non-work related events, such as bars and restaurants, when with potential or current employers or coworkers?

Shareef: Always be on. You are being interviewed by an organization until you leave regardless of where you are seen. If at a happy hour or bar with potential employers and are age, you may have one drink that you sip all night. You should talk and be active so that it’s not weird that you’re not throwing drinks back. Remember that you’re not in college anymore…when you leave school you have to have some end goals and things you need to accomplish. What’s important? Plan and govern yourself in such a way that aligns with your goals.

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