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Advice / Job Search / Networking

An Easy Way to Make Networking Way, Way Better

Let’s set the scene: You’re in a room full of people you don’t know. You mill around for a while, nervous to approach groups of people who seem like they’re already best friends, talk to a few people who have been false starts because, well, you kind of feel weird blabbing on about yourself and your accomplishments, and leave dejectedly without a new contact to your name.

Sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about the bar on a Friday night. I’m talking about your last networking event.

Approaching strangers to make new connections can be awkward, to say the least. So what do you do when you’re professionally single and ready to mingle?

Why, get a wingman (or woman), of course.

A networking wingman works similarly to a dating one. It’s someone who can make you feel less awkward approaching groups of people you don’t know. It’s someone who knows your work well and can sing your praises for you—so you don’t have to do it yourself and risk sounding egotistical.

It may sound like a small change, but it can make a huge difference in how the night goes. I’m a notoriously uncomfortable networker, and after a string of events where I spent a lot of time standing by the snacks and talking to no one, went to an event with my boss. It was like night and day. Within the first hour, I had talked to a handful of interesting people, felt like I had made some good connections, and felt much more at-ease doing it. As an added bonus, I got to watch my boss—who is much better at networking than I am—at work and pick up some pointers.

So, how can you pick the perfect networking wingman to give you a boost at your next event? First and foremost, go with someone who knows your work well: a co-worker, mentor, or close friend. You want someone who can talk about what you do almost as well as you can! If you’re on the shyer side, try to find a partner who’s a little more outgoing or who is a little more established in the industry and therefore is more likely to already know people there. Finally, pick someone you enjoy spending time with! If the event is a bust, at least you’ll get to chat (and, um, score some free wine).

What do you think? Could a networking wingman help you?

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