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Katie Caruso

Clear. Bright. Connected.

Mingling Meaningfully

My career has introduced me to some of the best connectors in the biz - masterful minglers who just seem to know everyone and connect purposefully without sacrificing their authenticity. These leaders taught me some great lessons about networking. I hope you enjoy learning about them here and glean some tips that are helpful for your journey.


The Sharpshooter


Part of my job at a big nonprofit was supporting their special events - huge affairs with hundreds of people in attendance. It could have been chaos, but I observed our department leader navigate the room strategically and with purpose.


I watched her prepare diligently beforehand, check seating lists, create fact sheets on guests, and quiz herself on attendees' pictures so she could quickly recognize their faces in the room. When the time came, she knew exactly who she needed to connect with and why. She didn't let herself get lost in the sparkly setting or get stuck in a long-winded conversation. She was a sharpshooter, connecting with purpose, and only taking to the dancefloor after she accomplished her mission.


She taught me that it is imperative to do my homework before going to an event. To make the most out of the evening, you have to stay laser-focused and ask yourself...


Who has helped me that I need to thank? Who do I want to connect with and why? Who can I help in this room?


Because I'm prepared, I'm not going in blind. I have an objective, and it's not just to eat a nice meal - although that is a bonus.


The Collector


I worked for a man who accumulated facts, stockpiled tidbits, and hoarded details. His office was littered with notecards scribbled all over with interesting information about people. He always kept a pen and paper in his breast pocket so he could jot down information on the go, then he would sweep in energetically after a meeting and tell me, "Katie, we have to introduce So-and-So to So-and-So," or, "be sure to invite Suzy Q. to the performance next week. She loves the theater and I know she will get along well with Joe Schmo." He was constantly looking for opportunities to bring people together and kick-start relationships that he thought would be mutually beneficial.


He always said that people will never forget who helped them. And this is so true, isn't it? You probably get dozens of unsolicited introductions every day, but are all those messages really offering anything meaningful to you? Now, what if you met someone at a mixer and the next day they followed up with...


"Hey Jack, it was nice talking with you at the holiday party. When you mentioned you were having an issue with your well, I immediately thought of my friend Jill who is an expert in water safety. I know she can help you solve your problem. Can I make an introduction?"


That's powerful! This approach to networking is easy and builds valuable goodwill with others.


The Boundary Setter


She is the chief executive of a multi-million dollar global corporation. She is consistently ranked on the top lists for her industry. She is highly-praised for being an outspoken, charismatic, affecting, and strong leader. But, she has a secret. She is...an introvert. Her inbox is flooded with invitations, but big social events drain her energy and leave her in a conviviality hangover the next day. She knows this about herself, so she has learned to set clear boundaries when it comes to networking.


I watched this leader navigate her high-octane social scene like a champ. She carefully managed her schedule by including downtime before events and the day after, limiting the number of events she attended in a week or month, and establishing a clear end-time by giving herself a "hard out." She would schedule an immovable conflict around the event, such as a planned dinner with family or an early flight the next morning.


She attended these events because she knew the value of representing her company in the community, but she also knew that they did not suit her style. Following an event, she would reach out to people individually and invite them to meet in a setting where she would be more comfortable and confident. For example...


"It was great to see you at the mixer last night. We didn't get to catch up, so I'd love to invite you to lunch this week. When is good for you?"


Brilliant strategy for the introverts among us.


Bottom Line: Networking is an art and a science. I encourage you to cultivate self-awareness and experiment with different tactics you can use to connect meaningfully with others and create authentic relationships that lead to shared success.

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