Alisa is from Ukraine and has been living in the Netherlands for five years now. She finished her bachelor’s in Communication and Media and is now continuing her studies with a master’s in Management at Erasmus University. She decided to start uploading content about her life in Rotterdam on social media in July 2023 and to expand her network after struggling to find a job due to not speaking Dutch.

Overwhelmed

To expand her social circle, Alisa went to big networking events. An example is ‘Amstercannes’, a festival filled with panel discussions with creative industry insiders and people can buy tickets to meet and talk with them. Soon enough she realised that forming connections at large-scale networking events was going to be tougher than anticipated. “Big events overwhelm with the amount of people attending.”

She specifically recalls an event she attended in Amsterdam a year ago: “I was excited but there were so many people. I was so shy I didn’t talk to anyone, I felt very small and uneducated and couldn’t bring anything to the table.” Alisa comments how at large networking events, there are so many people that it creates an ‘overwhelming pressure’ to decide who to talk to.

Organising own events

The growing frustration at the big networking events combined with her love for hosting inspired the small networking events she started organising. People who attend her events are usually students and recent graduates who are interested or in some way involved in the creative industry. Her approach was to create something ‘more personal’ where people have ‘high chances to get along and get into their network circles’. Alisa hosts events twice a month and notifies people through her Instagram.

She is aware that other people also struggle with networking at big events and wants to create a different atmosphere. “I want to give space for like-minded people and it’s not just about the job.” Her events find success, she says, as they are fully booked and by the end attendees find friends, business partners or both.

Currently, she is working on a mystery event. Alisa finds that creating smaller events with more interaction facilitate a successful networking community that is more than conversing about yourself and your work. “You introduce new people, see how they work in teams and create the feeling of unity.”

Understand your brand

Alisa Mahaletska_1_05_24_Kim Casamitjana Spennhoff
Image credit: Kim Casamitjana

From her experience with all kinds of networking events, Alisa is starting to understand what works. One of the traps that people fall into is failing to prepare for the event. But what does being prepared imply? “Context matters a lot”, says Alisa. Being aware of who you want to approach, an employer or a work partner, you should think of information about yourself that people will find important.

Making a good first impression can be a powerful tool when it comes to networking, she continues. Hair, makeup, clothes can be used in a unique way. “Everybody has a brand, you just need to understand what it is”, says Alisa. It can come from ‘the way you combine your clothes, your jewelry or tattoos’. Even ‘wearing plain clothes can be outstanding’ in a crowd full of people all dressing in colorful clothing.

Unusual approach

It’s about ‘setting the right tone’ – ‘bringing donuts to a company’ or ‘giving a business card to your mentor’ –, says Alisa when talking about forming a connection. One instance, that Alisa talks about, is a guy gifting her a pineapple upon meeting each other. This gesture ended up evoking positive emotions and was a ‘small thing that made my day’.

A point of continuation

“Don’t stop at ‘Nice meeting you, goodbye’”, says Alisa. Try to have a ‘continuation’ by reminding people of yourself and your craft on various social platforms such as Instagram. When it comes to her strategy Alisa says: “I keep making content, so I pop up on their feed and stay in their vision. They see that I’m available for projects and collaborations.”

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