Whether or not you are looking for work, it pays to know how to connect like a pro.

Share story

Summer is the perfect time to get out and about, and not just to Mariners games or friends’ backyards. I recently went to a local business happy hour hosted by Townsquared. A reluctant extrovert, I’m not always jazzed about voluntarily showing up to shake strangers’ hands. But I do it, because networking and personal connections are more important than ever in our gig economy.

Get on the networking circuit. Do some online research for organizations like Townsquared that host happy hours for freelancers and small businesses. Seek out events around a topic you’re interested in and check for any relevant meet-up groups. I met one motivated woman who attends between seven and 10 events each week. That might be too much for us humans, but take her lead and fill up your dance card.

Bring the energy. I met several people, all with wildly different careers, and I remember them all because they were enthusiastic, both about their jobs and about learning more about me. If you are feeling like an event is going to be a drag, adjust your attitude and walk in with vim and vigor.

Work the room. Make it a goal to chat with five new people and get their business cards (make sure to bring a stack of your cards). It’s a win-win: if you power through five conversations in short order, you have permission to leave. And if it takes longer, so much the better. You’re clearly meeting with interesting people who might prove to be valuable connections.

Know your purpose. What are you pitching: your business, yourself, something else? Do you want a new job or client, or do you just want to become more of a connector by expanding your digital Rolodex? Figure out how you want to position yourself and after a few events, you’ll have your talking points down cold.

Be curious. Have a few questions in your back pocket. After you get past the “what do you dos,” ask what excites someone about their job or the company culture. And throw in a personal question or two, perhaps about travel or hobbies, to make the conversation lively and memorable.

Follow up. The day after the happy hour, I received a personalized email from a woman I met, along with the e-newsletter her association provides to the retail community. She reinforced our connection and provided me with useful information. This clearly wasn’t her first time at the networking rodeo.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.