Get connected: Colorado techies share their dos and don'ts of professional networking

by April Bohnert
March 28, 2018
Networking tips Colorado
Photo via Shutterstock.

“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

It’s a phrase we hear often — and typically with some level of annoyance — because it’s true.

While there’s no denying the importance of having the skills to do your job, we also can’t deny the power of the professional network. Whether you want to acquire new skills or meet people who can help you take your career to the next level, building a strong professional network is one of the greatest investments you can make.

Ready to put yourself out there, but not sure where to begin? Start by taking some advice from these savvy networkers.

 

Ibotta networking tips Colorado
Photo courtesy of Ibotta.

Josh Chen is a recruiting specialist for Ibotta. As a recruiter, he has a front row seat to the impact networking can have on a person’s career — including his own. According to Chen, every job he’s ever had has come from a personal connection he had with someone at the company.

Long story short, network with purpose.”

How do you choose which networking events to attend?

I’m pretty selective about the networking events I choose to attend. I go either to learn new things about an area I’m unfamiliar with (e.g. a recent UI/UX meetup), or I go to give (e.g. I love students and helping them learn how to find a job for the first time).

Long story short, network with purpose.

 

What are your top dos and don'ts of professional networking?

Do: 



  • See people for who they are in the moment, but also, in all the moments to come. 

It’s so important to remember that the person who seems of no use to you when you’re just casually chatting today could be an amazing connection later.

  • Follow up (if applicable) with a personalized LinkedIn message. If I had a nickel for every time someone took my business card and told me they’d follow up with me and didn’t, I’d be retired by now.



  • Stay home if you’re feeling under the weather. Colds? The flu? Ain’t nobody got time for that.


     

Don’t:

  • Take a “shotgun approach” to networking. Too many people waste their time trying to meet every single person at a networking event and handing their business cards to each one, but they go wide at the expense of going deep.

  • Be disrespectful of others’ time. 

Knowing when to make a graceful exit can be just as memorable as being that person that “talked to me all night.”

  • Get toasted. 

If there happens to be one, avoid the open bar. Seriously, just don’t do it. I promise Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are not the awesome wingmen they’ll promise to be.



 

Wowza networking tips Colorado
Photo courtesy of Wowza.

Wowza’s director of demand generation George Sturgis admits he wouldn’t be where he is today without his professional network. From learning about new marketing tools and strategies to finding the job that would land him in Denver, Sturgis has mastered the art of effective networking.

Find events that matter most to you.”

What are your top dos and don'ts of professional networking?

Do:

  • Make an effort to dress up at an event. It can go a long way for your confidence and your approachability. I’m not saying you have to wear your best Hugo Boss suit, but a button down is a must.

  • Have business cards ready. You never know who you are going to meet at these events and you want to be sure to stay connected with them.

  • Be brave. Networking events are all about meeting new and exciting people. Go up to a stranger and introduce yourself and start a conversation.


Don’t:

  • Overeat or drink. You don’t want to be that person that is too drunk or that has food all over their clothes. I try to stay with the one beer and one appetizer rule while networking. Remember you are there to network, not have dinner.

  • Be late. Networking events don’t last very long and you want to get the most of out of it.   

 

What tips do you have for someone who wants to make genuine, meaningful connections at networking events — not just make small talk?

First, find events that matter most to you. Ask yourself: Why should I go to this event? Does it align with my goals? If so, do your research, see who is going and have a plan. Making meaningful connections has helped me get to where I am in my career.  

 

Healthgrades networking tips Colorado
Photo courtesy of Healthgrades.

As a talent acquisition partner at Healthgrades, Loren Gassaway understands the multi-faceted benefits of growing a strong professional network. She uses networking to fill her recruiting pipeline with diverse candidates, to create new connections in the community and to help connect others with people in her industry. She even found out about her current role at Healthgrades through a person in her network.

Be yourself. This is an opportunity to make an authentic professional connection.”

How do you choose which networking events to attend?

The core of our mission at Healthgrades is to help people make meaningful connections, so often times we partner with organizations that are focused on building community, such as Denver Startup Week, meetup groups, Built In Colorado and local universities. As a company, we understand the importance of hiring underrepresented groups. When we have specific hiring needs, we love to attend events, such as the Tech Jobs Tour, WomenHack, college job fairs or other diversity-and-inclusion-focused engagements to help us identify future employees.

 

What are your top dos and don'ts of professional networking?

Do:

  • Follow up and connect on social media, but don’t be overly persistent. Give people time to respond.

  • Be yourself. This is an opportunity to make an authentic professional connection.
     

Don’t:

  • Come in hot. Try to make a genuine connection before making your pitch.

  • Overshare. Keep the conversation focused and build a relationship before you share personal details.
     

What tips do you have for someone who wants to make genuine, meaningful connections at networking events — not just make small talk?

Know that not all networking has to be external. At Healthgrades, we offer new hire socials, product demos, holiday activities and other events to foster community within our organization and build relationships. Be sure to take advantage of those events, too, as they are a great way to build your network in a comfortable environment where you can easily foster those relationships.

 

Red Canary networking tips Colorado
Photo courtesy of Red Canary.

Keith McCammon is the co-founder and chief security officer at Red Canary. The only job he’s ever “applied” for was his first out of college; the rest have been products of his professional network. Looking back, McCammon says that even the company’s founding team and earliest employees came together through various professional networks.

Don't fixate on where everyone works and their titles. Employers and titles aren’t anyone’s identity.”

What are your top dos and don'ts of professional networking?

Do:

  • Ask how they prefer to keep in touch. Everyone has at least one phone number, email, SMS, etc., and most of us have Slack communities, LinkedIn, Twitter and mailing lists on top of the basics. It’s good to recognize and be respectful of other peoples’ systems for managing information overload.

  • Follow up! Regardless of whether one of you agreed to take an action, a simple “pleasure meeting you and I appreciated our discussion about...” is always well-received. 

  • Make meaningful connections. If connecting on LinkedIn, send a personal note to help them remember who you are, what you talked about, etc. You may have spoken with three people at an event, where the other person spoke with three dozen.

Don’t:

  • Be offended by folks who do not friend you on LinkedIn or take you up on your offer of coffee/beer/lunch/dinner. People are busy and may be justifiably defensive of their networks and time. This is why rule number one above centers on a courteous, non-binding thank you for the other person’s time. If there’s an ask or some follow-up action, that’s gravy.

  • Fixate on where everyone works and their titles. Learn about what they do, and share what you’re good at if asked. Employers and titles aren’t anyone’s identity.

  • Invite everyone to meet you someplace. See the first “do not.”

 

What tips do you have for someone who wants to make genuine, meaningful connections at networking events — not just make small talk?

Prior to events, understand who will be there that you know or would like to know. In the case of the latter, do some research and figure out whether an existing contact can make an introduction ahead of time. If a warm introduction falls through, consider whether you’d like to shoot a note over to introduce yourself, making clear that you’ve taken the time to learn something about them and would like to meet.

 

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