If you have entered the working world in New Orleans yet or are getting close to doing so, you are probably familiar with the phrase “it’s all about who you know.” While we love New Orleans for so its many traditions that have outlasted the years, this can be one that is frustrating.
It may be true that knowing people helps to some extent, but we believe that just like in other cities, if you hustle hard and make enough contacts on your own, you can be successful in the field of your choice.
After working as professionals in the city for upward of three years now, we have learned a thing or two about the best places and ways to create a network of reliable contacts in New Orleans. For those who are new here, entering the workforce soon, or want to start building a network now, we are sharing our tips!
Choose the Right Events for You
There are many organizations in town that host networking events. You certainly don’t need to go to them all, but choose a few that you think would be a good fit for you to try out before deciding on your favorites. There are many citywide organizations that hold events that are great for people in any industry to attend and meet people from all over Nola. There are also industry specific organizations which are typically the best if you are looking for a way to meet people in an industry you may want to break into, or just meet like-minded individuals that you can learn and grow with.
Some of our favorite organizations that host events great for any industry include:
- The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce – we love their young professional, women’s business alliance and chamber after 5 events
- The Jefferson Chamber of Commerce
- 504Ward – a young professional centric organization, 504ward seriously has some of the coolest events throughout the year!
- The Greater New Orleans Foundation – our favorites are their Pop Up Happy Hours (I mean if you include “Happy Hour” in the name, we are there)
- StayLocal – great for owners of small businesses, but anyone can attend their events and learn a thing or two!
- Young Leadership Council – a great organization to volunteer throughout the city and network with other young professionals
Industry specific organizations often host luncheons or after hours events as well . If you don’t see your industry here, do a search or reach out to your colleagues. There are sure to be some specific to your industry!
- Legal: Federal Bar Association, New Orleans Bar Association, and Association for Women Attorneys
- Public Relations, Marketing & Advertising: Public Relations Society of America New Orleans Chapter, Public Relations Association of Louisiana New Orleans, American Marketing Association New Orleans, AdClub of New Orleans
- Tech: Silicon Bayou News, New Orleans Women in Technology
There are also conferences like New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, and New Orleans Startup Week that are completely free and are a great place to meet people. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur!
Ok, a professional version of yourself, but don’t tense up or get too nervous. It’s just a networking event, and the worst that can happen is that you leave without meeting anyone new. No big deal – you will catch the next one! One of the great things about New Orleans, is that there were always be a bar at networking events to give you a bit of liquid courage. Of course, you never want to overdo it in this setting, but have a glass of wine and walk up to someone you would like to meet. A great opening line is to compliment someone on something you like they are wearing. Or, just chit chat until you find something you have in common. You will always find something!
Remember that No Contact is a Bad One
We’ve all done it – met someone at a networking event who we think is not of value to us, so we start looking around the room for someone who may be better to chat with, and not paying attention to what the person in front of you is saying. Not only is this impolite, but it’s naive to think that someone less experienced than you, in the same field as you (if you are focused on selling a service), or even someone who you may think is simply trying to sell you on something, won’t be a good person to know. You never know how the two of you could work together in the future!
Always Follow Up
Even if you don’t have time the next morning to follow up with everyone you met, put it on your to-do list and send them a quick nice to meet you email within a couple of days of the event. If you can, schedule a time to meet for coffee and chat more with someone you hit it off with. You will never regret this! The email will leave your name top of mind in case there’s a way you can work together in the future. At the very least, add people on LinkedIn!
From our experience, the more you expand your network, the more success you will have. You may even meet some new friends along the way! We hope this was helpful. Share any networking tips or events you love in the comments.