Career Column

Effective Networking: A Qualitative Approach

Yahya Rasoully
Merck & Co.


magine: You have just finished your first team meeting with colleagues and your new manager. You had a great time and hit it off very well with everyone. Most importantly, you maintained your professional image. You shook hands with everyone, thanked them for their time, and left the meeting room and that was it.

How would you grade your interaction, on a scale of 1 to 10?
On a scale of 1 to 10, this interaction should be given a 5! Why? Because 50 percent of the meeting involves the conversations, professionalism, and general meeting material, all of which went well. But the other 50 percent involves effectively networking with the people you just met, which did not happen at all!

Most of us have already been in this type of situation or will be. I remember my first time in a similar situation. After a large team meeting, I was overwhelmed with the number of people I had just met in a brief amount of time. I left the room replaying in my head different scenarios of how this meeting could have gone better. Afterwards, I researched ways to have quality interactions that lead to effective networking and learned why it is essential to have networking tactics prepared in your arsenal before every meeting from this point forward.

Networking has many definitions, including the development and maintenance of professional relationships. The keyword here is maintain: networking is not effective unless professional relationships are maintained. It is also important to focus on building the quality and not only the quantity of these relationships.

Let’s return to that team meeting. Following these steps will lead to more effective networking.

  1. Use Initiative: Use your initiative and introduce yourself to everyone in the room at the start of the meeting. This is a great way to make a good first impression as it shows you are eager to get to know people. The consequence of not taking initiative can result in missed opportunities and sometimes even a bad first impression.
  2. Take Advantage: Take advantage of periodic breaks during the meeting to get to know colleagues and their work better.
  3. Maintain Facetime: When the meeting concludes, maintain facetime by continuing conversations with your colleagues on your way out. Consider requesting a one-on-one meeting with colleagues from whom you would like to learn more.

    We are all guilty at some point of a common facetime mistake that I like to call “drifting.” Drifting typically occurs after a relationship has been initially established; it is essentially the lack of periodic catch-up meetings or conversations. This is the most important aspect after a relationship is created because it attests to the genuine nature of the relationship and the effort you are willing to expend to maintain it.

  4. Always Follow Up: If it is appropriate, send a follow-up eMail to thank the new colleagues you met. This should be done promptly and provides an opportunity to schedule a follow-up meeting for further discussion. Be proactive and flexible; everyone’s schedules may not always align smoothly with yours, so you may need to work around others’ availability. Sometimes you may even get referred to another colleague. If this happens, don’t be discouraged – this can lead you to another valuable networking opportunity.
The most basic aspects of networking can often be the most overlooked. The next time you have a meeting or other type of professional encounter, remember these four key steps to effective networking: Use your initiative, take advantage, maintain facetime, and always follow up.