On August 15th of this year, I was fortunate to attend a wonderful event at my area Biotech Happy Hour titled “Building a Sphere of Influence and Leveraging LinkedIn”. The presenters of this event were Jacqui Sakowski and Cay Villars. A full description of the program is provided on BioForwards’s Events website.

During this two hour presentation, our room of perhaps 40 attendees was instructed in the ways that we should network while at social events like the Biotech Happy Hour. To begin with, we should strive to make meaningful interactions with at least 2-3 individuals in order to build our sphere of influence. Following these interactions, we should follow-up with an email or some other “reach out” method. Likewise, we should make ourselves a “go to” expert in some niche, thus giving ourselves a ready identity for others to remember and utilize.

The most profound idea I took away from this session was, in the words of Arnold Bennett, “You will make more friends in a week by getting yourself interested in other people than you can in a year by trying to get other people interested in you.” This idea was expanded upon by Jacqui and Cay in great detail as they discussed how professional networking is not just about what you get out of the interaction, but also what value you bring to others. In other words, by helping others you help yourself. Or, as I like to quote from a Chinese proverb: “A generous spirit brings good luck.”

We were also provided with some great tools for using LinkedIn to showcase our talents. For example, not everyone considers asking for recommendations through LinkedIn; however, recommendations are a very powerful method through which your experience and expertise can be noted and applauded. Also, a LinkedIn recommendation gives you credibility- somebody out there really does think you are good at something! Likewise, although it seems simple enough, too many LinkedIn members never post a photo of themselves. However, one of the first ways that we interact with others is by looking them in the face. Thus, not posting your photo leaves your viewers with an incomplete and easily forgettable impression of who you really are. In some cases, your viewers might wrongly assume that you are trying to hide something.

The presentation by Jacqui and Cay inspired me to work harder at future networking events and strive to provide value to my fellow attendees. I also took the initiative to start privately mentoring aspiring freelance writers. Updating my LinkedIn account was the next task on my list. I am happy to say that, not even a month after my networking “boot camp” class, I have greatly improved my sphere of influence. I would like to thank both Jacqui and Cay for taking the time to help me and many other Biotech Happy Hour attendees become better professionals.