The Work Issue: The New Rules of Networking

"There’s a very thin line between personal and professional."

Illustration by Matt Chase

Illustration by Matt Chase

Does it seem like there are more networking events than ever? There are. Connections are still at the heart of business, but the old rules no longer apply. We asked some of Philly’s networking all-stars how they make the most of their time.

Business is personal is business.

Those blurred lines? Blame Mark Zuckerberg, not Robin Thicke. “So much is available online — who people are and what they’re doing. There’s a very thin line between personal and professional,” says Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Wilco Electronic Systems. But that’s not a negative. “There was a time when it was thought you couldn’t do business with friends,” says Marc Brownstein, president and CEO of the Brownstein Group. “Today, with so much sharing, you have more opportunities. Most of my clients are my friends.” This is especially true in Philadelphia, a town that’s not very transient. Which really means that you must …

Be authentic.

“It’s refreshing to be your authentic self,” says Daniel. “Your family, your interests, where you like to go, establishes the way people think about you, even for business purposes.” It also helps take that icky sales-like factor out of meeting new people. “When I first started out, I was always trying to accomplish something,” says Josh Goldblum, founder and CEO of Bluecadet. “That level of anxiety and purpose is counterproductive. Now, I think of every interaction as a way to learn what other people’s worlds are like. It’s a real relationship.” Which is why they …

Don’t call it networking.

“I can’t stand that word!” say both Brownstein and Archna Sahay, manager of entrepreneurial investment for the City of Philadelphia. “You really need to think of it as the power of connecting, which frames all interactions with a purpose,” adds Sahay. It’s also why they look at every moment (not just your stereotypical name-tag event) as a place to connect. “Develop relationships however you feel comfortable,” says Michael Heller, president and CEO of Cozen O’Connor. “Don’t force it,” says Goldblum. “The person who gets hammered at a cocktail party is the person who feels uncomfortable.” Hate working the big room? Drinks at a beer garden, coffee meetings, volunteering, even a yoga class are all appropriate venues these days. Choose the one that works for you. And all agree …

Social media is best for the follow-up.

Think of a LinkedIn connection or Instagram follow as exchanging business cards. “Follow up with what you’re doing, especially as a project develops and grows,” says Sahay. Social media can also help with the cold call (which most say they make), so you can see whom you both know or what interests you have in common. It’s a quick and easy way to connect. However …

Face-to-face still rules.

Everyone agrees: We may know more people now, but we know them on a surface level. The preferred method of interaction? Grabbing coffee.

Originally published in the November 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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