Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - By Andy
Networking is key to how we enter into and develop our careers. From gaining valuable work experience, to tapping into the ‘hidden jobs market’, to winning new business for ourselves or the organisations we work for, networking is a vital part of any career strategy and mustn’t be overlooked. Here are 5 key networking tips to help ensure you’re making the most of such a potentially powerful tool.
1. Arrive at events on time
If you decide to attend a networking event get there early. Arriving late means groups have started to form, making it that little bit more daunting when you walk in the room as you then have to break into people’s conversations. There are usually a few other early arrivers and the event host will often introduce you, making it easier to get a conversation started and get your networking session off to a flyer. Remember though, time at an event needs a return on your (time) investment so don’t stick with one person or group, make sure you meet as many people as possible.
2. Listen and ask questions
When engaged in conversations at events, listening is the key. When you listen you are much more fully alert to potential opportunities, be that for work experience, a potential job opening or a business contract. By listening carefully then your questions will come to you more naturally, helping to keep the conversation flowing and increasing the chances of you identifying the opportunity you’ve been looking for.
3. Get people’s cards and follow up
This is where many people can let themselves down after attending a seemingly successful networking event. They may have spent their entire time dishing business cards out to people and expecting them to get in touch in the coming days. Or have done the right thing by engaging in conversations of substance - (a mix of small talk and business – don’t underestimate small talk, it’s paramount to building any relationship) - taken the persons card and then not followed up with an email or call. This is usually due to poor organisation or a fear of making that call. It’s in the follow up where the true value of networking can be realised so make sure you organise the contacts you have made, plan what you want to say to them, and send that email / make that call.
4. Use multiple channels - don’t forget your existing network and online media
Networking isn’t all about attending events. Other effective ways of growing your network include asking people within your existing network if they can introduce you to people they know, and to people they know etc etc. It can be quite amazing when we realise how many contacts we already have if we just spend 10 minutes mapping out our network, and a great feeling once you see how closely connected you (or someone in your existing network) are to someone in a field you are trying to break into. Online media is another excellent channel, and Linked In and Twitter in particular can be extremely powerful if used in a strategic and professional way.
5. And finally....
Growing your network doesn’t happen without patience and persistence. Contacts need to be nurtured over time to build rapport and trust, and a contact strategy for individuals within your network can be the key to success.
For more help with networking and creating an effective contact strategy please get in touch.