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Networking in DC: How to Network with Anyone!
January 27, 2015

Billy here. Happy to be back for another year of motivating you guys to shimmy up that corporate ladder!

Now I know you guys know me for my hard-line “getting ahead” career strategies and for giving you the best tips and tricks for making yourself a competitive candidate in the job market. However, considering one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to work on accessing my empathy, I’ve taken on an unprecedented collaboration with Ms. Chelsea Evara for this week’s piece. You may know her for articles surrounding such practical matters as “feeling happy and grateful”.

Despite Chelsea and my–um–philosophical differences, she is, without a doubt, the best networker I know (besides myself of course). I want to get to the bottom of how she works wonders at networking functions. She can network with ANYONE! Quite frankly, I’m in awe of her networking – a jealous, frustrated, bewildered awe.

With that in mind, I interviewed Chelsea to get her best tips and tricks on how to network with virtually anyone. Check out my interview below…

Transcribed by Woody Wilson 

Networking in DC: Learn from the Best

Billy: How do you break the ice when meeting someone you know could catapult your career forward? 

Chelsea: I always ask them something about themselves, like where they are from or what they do. Even better, whenever possible, I do my homework before I go to an event. I find out who will be there, and seek out people I want to meet. Then, I can ask even better questions, like “I know you work with Elena Kagan, can you tell me what that’s like?” People love to talk about themselves, and oddly, will remember you more when you do. Finding common ground is the best way to start a great conversation.

Billy: But if you’re aware that person could hold your entire future in their cocktail-occupied hands, don’t you think you should do what you can to impress?

Chelsea: What impresses people is your interest in THEM, not your own resume. There is time for that later. Tell them about yourself if they ask, of course, but always bring the conversation around to them. Nobody likes a person who only talks about themselves.

And, obviously don’t say anything mean, rude or gossipy (so tacky!). Or, if you treat them like they’re Duchess Kate or something, they’re probably going to be a little uncomfortable, right? Be their equal! Also, if you list your resume, they’re going to know you want something from them, which will turn them off.

Billy: If you don’t leave the party with a bunch of VP’s business cards, you’ve probably failed.

Chelsea: Is that a question?

Billy: Do you consider that a failure?

Chelsea: Oh. No, not really. The best relationships develop over time, right?  I mean, if you REALLY want to network with a particular person find a way to keep in touch with them. Randomly collecting business cards is good for decorating your bulletin board, but if you make 1 or 2 solid connections and get their OK to take the next step with them, that is golden. You can network with anyone like this.

Billy: My business card collecting isn’t random. 

Chelsea: I-I’m not talking about you specifically…

Billy: I know you all thought it was really funny when I emailed that Mexican Telenova star asking for an internship, but you know what, he looked exactly like an executive from UBER…

Chelsea: Billy that was a really long time ago, nobody…

Billy: And the business card was in Spanish…

Chelsea: I’m just saying it might be better to cultivate important relationships over time to get the best ‘results’.  You know, show genuine interest?

Billy: You always seem to carry on very long and meaningful conversations with people who are frankly way too important to notice you, so how does that work?

Chelsea: Maybe it’s because I ask a lot of questions—about THEM!  Everyone likes to feel important, and asking them about themselves is a great way to get them to open up.  I think even people who seem important want people to be interested in them. It’s just part of being human.

Billy: What about a gracious exit strategy when it’s time to move on to the next person?

Chelsea: Well hopefully everyone knows that people are at the party to meet lots of people. If you just say it was really nice talking to the person and then excuse yourself to get more food or a drink, they probably won’t mind. But leaving with “Can I call you next week and have a coffee?” says we will meet again. And, you have their “Yes” to contact them.

Billy: Right. Well Chelsea, it was very nice talking to you.  I think I’m going to get another cup of coffee.

Chelsea: …oh uh. Yeah. That’s a great example. Except this is an interview and it’s also your apartment. So should I leave?