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At the core of any successful career is a supportive, diverse, and active network. Peers, colleagues, allies, supervisors, subordinates, mentors, and others you can go to for advice, an introduction, and support are essential for professional and personal growth. 

But how do you build a professional network you can rely on? What are the best ways to nurture and grow your network so that those in it feel comfortable coming to you, and you to them?

Here are six networking tips from leading Booth alumnae about creating a powerful business community.

Practice Active Listening—Always

“Get to know the person as a person first. Ask questions. Discover what they are interested in. Listen and make sure those interactions, especially the first one, are conversations. That’s often a pitfall of networking. It’s not just thinking about what the person can do for you.”

Nicole Yelsey, ’12, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of KindWorks.AI in Chicago

Show Them, Don’t Tell Them

“Networking is about sustaining long-lasting relationships. Sometimes it’s just sending an email with thought-leadership content, or sending a handwritten card during the holidays. It’s building, step-by-step, those relationships so that those people grow with you. And they become your community whom you can rely on for anything.”

Sabera Choudhury, ’08 (XP-77), Director at Resolutions Economics Group in Chicago

If You’re a Booth Graduate, Use That Network

“Don’t underestimate the Booth network. It’s incredibly powerful. People will take your call. In the context of networking, for somebody coming up with a direct ask and outreach for help, I would never say no. And in turn, if I needed something, I would go back to that network.”

Jan Anne Dubin, ’94 (XP-63), Founder and CEO of Jan Anne Dubin Consulting in Chicago

Be Mindful of ‘PIE’

“Everyone has a personal brand. There’s a model, the PIE model, which stands for “performance, impression, and exposure.” Performance is the bottom line, but I think impression and exposure are actually more important. Impression is understanding that no matter what you do, you’re always making an impression on others. And I like to think of exposure as being about sponsors and allies. Find people who will truly have your back. Surround yourself with them and keep them close.”

—Nicole Yelsey

Recognize When You Have a Good Relationship with Someone

“I know I have a good relationship with somebody when the person calls me, not for business, but about a personal issue—whether it’s somebody who touches some area of my business, or somebody who is just a part of my inner network and values my input on something that’s a personal issue for them. When that moment happens, you can reciprocate.”

—Sabera Choudhury

Identify Allies Who Champion What’s Right

“As you embark on new careers in organizations, look for sponsors and mentors. But equally important, especially for diverse individuals and women, is the world of allies and allyship. Look for those who will stand up for you or put themselves in affinity groups of which they are not a member because they want to champion what’s right. This is the kind of behavior that allows you to thrive and feel a sense of belonging.”

—Jan Anne Dubin

 

Yelsey, Choudhury, and Dubin were panelists at a recent Fall Networking Workshop event hosted by Chicago Booth as part of our ongoing Booth Women Connect series. Save the date for the annual Booth Women Connect Conference, which will take place on March 3, 2023, in Chicago.

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