How to Network Like a (Young) Pro

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This article was contributed by YPG member Leigh Camp ( If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Stephanie Bowen at

Last month, The Onion (a.k.a. “America’s Finest News Source”) published an article titled “Study: 89 Percent of Networking Non-Consensual”. This article hilariously spotlights a sad professional reality: Networking is uncomfortable. Or it can be easily, especially for people new to the game (i.e., young publishing professionals like us). But not to worry, networking is a skill that can be learned like any other. Use the following tips to prep for your next publishing meet-and-greet, and wow the room with your stellar professional savvy!

1. Drink something—but not too much! For better or worse, networking happy hours center around the professionally dangerous activity of alcohol consumption. This does not mean that you have to drink, BUT this does mean that you should have a drink in hand. The drink can be water, soda, or an actual “drink” drink. What’s important is that you’re holding something. It makes the person you’re talking to subconsciously feel more comfortable with you than s/he would if your hand were empty. Consider this: If your hand is empty, you’re not doing anything, which sends the message that you’re not interested in participating. It may sound silly, but just the social act of sipping something, anything, with everyone else will help you to fit in. And this goes without saying, but definitely don’t drink too much of whatever you’re drinking. You don’t want to get drunk and potentially say or do things you don’t mean, and you also don’t want to spend half of the event in the restroom. Sip means sip.

2. Eat something. Most of networking events occur immediately after work. In other words, dinner time. Considering this, if you don’t nosh on something beforehand, you will likely be hungry. And, according to science, your body will not be able to metabolize alcohol as quickly, putting you at risk for breaking networking rule #1 (see above). Grab a slice of pizza beforehand (or something equally fast and—considering our salaries—cheap). Know that if you arrive there hungry, you will probably be irritable and preoccupied with thinking about how much you’d really love some food NOW. You may also find your stomach’s making its own contribution to the conversation in the form of embarrassingly loud growls. Both things that are not conducive to effective networking.

3. Be the best version of yourself. Leave all nervousness at the door and make an effort to portray yourself as you would like for others to see you: Approachable, positive, friendly, professional, etc. In other words, relax and smile. Editorial Assistant Rayna Erlick with John Wiley & Sons ( gives this advice, “If you project confidence, you will feel and look confident…and people will never know the difference. Smiling makes you feel better and it makes everyone around you feel better.” She’s right.

4. There’s strength in (small) numbers. If you’re too nervous to fly solo at these events (which is actually the best way to meet new people) by all means bring a friend or two. Going to networking events alone can be really intimidating, so taking a friend or coworker can ease your anxiety and may help you network more effectively. However, keep the number you bring to one or two, tops. You’re networking, remember? That means the goal is to meet new people. While it can be fun to bring coworkers with you to these functions, if you bring too many you run the risk of sitting in a corner talking exclusively amongst yourselves the whole evening.

5. Do your homework—read the day’s book blogs. It’s always good to know what’s going on in our industry, at least the main news topics. Being informed is especially important before surrounding ourselves with others who work in our industry, are likely interested in these main news topics, and probably will bring them up in conversation. Some good sites to skim and update yourself on the latest “goings on” in the book world include: Galley Cat (, Publishers Lunch (, PW Daily (, Shelf Awareness (, and Book Wire (

6. Do your very best to remember faces and names. This is one that’s especially hard for me. Bars are loud. I often do not hear names on the first try, and it’s awkward asking someone to repeat it—but you should! Because without a name, that person’s just a stranger you met at a bar. But with it, s/he is a new contact and potential friend. Foreign Rights Associate Nidhi Berry with Crown Publishing Group (a division of Random House) says that in her experience “making an effort to remember peoples’ names and faces” is always a goal of hers while networking (and a good one!). Similarly, Assistant Editor Sharbari Bose Kamat with Free Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) says her goal “is to make a real connection with at least two people in the room and to walk away knowing that we’ll definitely be in touch.” A good way to do this it to remember to ask for contact information from anyone you had a particularly good conversation with at the event, which leads in to our next tip:

7. Have something with your name on it and contact info, or at least a pen. Ideally, make sure you bring your company business card to the event. I say ideally because many companies, for whatever reason, do not give assistants business cards. This is unfortunate for those of us young to publishing and eager to exchange information with potential contacts in the industry. A quick, easy, and professional-looking solution to this dilemma: Create/buy your own. Vistaprint ( is a quality print company and usually has great specials. I’ve ordered cards from them for a very reasonable price and have been very happy with the results. You can create your own design and, if you need them by, say, next week, there’s a three-day rush delivery option. Typical things people include on cards are their name, company, professional title, work address, email address, work phone number, and fax number (if you still have one of those). Play around with the layout and order of your information to see what works best visually for you. Look at your boss’s card, if any are lying about, and consider using it as a model. If you don’t want to spring for cards, bring a pen and paper for writing your information down to give to new acquaintances and to take down their information. In a pinch, you can use your phone. Just be sure to make the person’s name end in “From [insert name of event here]” so that you remember who it is when s/he calls you to meet up.

8. Follow up. Be sure to actually reach out to that awesome person you met at that event and planned to grab drinks or lunch with. It’s acceptable to contact people as soon as two days after the event, but don’t bank on making concrete plans right away. Send an email rather than a text or a phone call (which can seem a bit forward and abrupt coming from a new contact). It should say something about how you enjoyed meeting him/her at such-and-such event and that you look forward to getting together soon. Suggest going to an upcoming event or lunch/drinks/coffee within the next couple of weeks. If these plans fall through or the person isn’t available, wait two more weeks and try again. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t get back to you, cancels last minute, or is consistently busy—and don’t call them out directly on it. In all likelihood, it has nothing to do with you, and you definitely do not want to burn a bridge—especially one that’s just in the making. At the opposite end of the spectrum, try not to be one of those people who makes and breaks plans. If you agree to meet someone somewhere, do your best to follow through. Make these new contacts a priority—you never know who could be your next best friend, mentor, colleague, or job lead!

9. Don’t be that girl/guy. Networking is a social situation with certain rules of etiquette to follow if you don’t want to become a professional pariah. See below for a strict list of “don’ts”:

Don’t play the “let’s see how many people I can meet” game. People will notice that you’re trying to get their info as quickly as possible and move onto the next, and they’ll feel a little used or resentful. Kamat concurs, noting that “trying to meet as many people as possible or stalking one person in particular aren’t productive approaches.” If you’re “speed networking” it’s unlikely that you’re giving each conversation the attention necessary to establish a connection with the person you’re talking to, which means your relationships with these contacts will probably fizzle.
Don’t pepper the room with your resume. This advice is similar to above, except it mainly applies to those using these events solely to look for a new professional gig. You can always see these people coming. They’re hungry, and they often come on too strong. In Erlick’s experience, it’s a huge faux pas to think “that, while you’re looking for a position, networking means introducing yourself to people and then shoving your resume at them.” This approach is off-putting and usually ineffective. As she noted, “People will only want to help you if they care about you. Networking is a type of friendship that involves give and take.” If you’re looking for a new job, it is important to meet as many people as you can. But take the time to truly get to know them over a few coffee or lunch dates, before asking them to vouch for you professionally and help you out with your job search.
Never use people as references without their consent. Berry listed “using someone as a connection without their permission or knowledge,” as one of the biggest networking faux pas a person can make, and I have to agree. It’s invasive, and borderline dishonest. Even if you know the person, it’s a good idea to ask before you list him or her as a person for potential employers to contact for a recommendation. It’s just polite. This will also give that person time to think of great things to say about you! Bottom line: Be sure to ask before you name-drop.
Talk about something other than the office. I promise you this: If you talk shop all night, you will bore people. Not the impression you’re probably going for—so come up with other things to talk about, things that interest you outside of work. Or maybe things that interested you before you started working (because unfortunately this job has completely taken over your life…oops?).

Now that you’re armed with these dos and don’ts, you’re ready to be a networking rockstar. As a parting thought, here’s a list of other networking groups of interest to join. Good luck and happy networking!

Digital Book World
The Virtuous Circle at the Algonquin Round Table
eBooks, eReaders, and Digital Content Publishing
mediaIDEAS Cabaret
The New York Independent Publishing Meetup Group

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One Response to “ How to Network Like a (Young) Pro ”

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