How to network effectively
Published: 06 Oct 2015 By Georgina Bloomfield
Regardless of our age or which stage of our career we’re at, networking effectively is very important. A lot of us probably hate the idea of speaking to strangers in a similar profession about said profession. It can be nerve-wracking, and it can be very easy to feel like you haven’t got anything out of it at the end. However, with our tips, hopefully you’ll find the idea of networking much more beneficial and you’ll make the most of every opportunity!
Get social media savvy
Networking isn’t just about face-to-face stuff. Websites such as LinkedIn are invaluable when it comes to professional networking. It’s free to use and you can do it on the go or at home. If you’re not used to LinkedIn, don’t worry; we have a guide here.
Twitter’s also useful for online networking. Lots of websites have Twitter accounts (such as ours!) that post jobs on a regular basis. If you’re looking for Twitter tips on finding a job through this website, look no further! We have one here.
It’s not just companies you need to search up online either to network well. You need to look for people. LinkedIn is great for this, but you shouldn’t add people to your network just for the sake of getting lots of connections on your profile. You want to have quality over quantity. Examine someone’s profile with a relatively keen eye. Can you see yourself needing their expertise in the coming months? Are they (or have they been) in a similar industry to yourself? Are they located near where you are? The answers to these questions don’t all have to be yes, but the more relevant this person is to you professionally the better.
A lot of people do ‘spurts’ of mass updating to their profile every few months. This isn’t always beneficial because you won’t be keeping up to date with the latest trends in your industry. LinkedIn isn’t just about you and your profile; what have others in your field done with their profile? Is there a progression in their careers you haven’t thought of yet for yourself?
Get face to face
This can be one of the most difficult aspects of networking. The face to face side of networking can put a lot of people off. The idea of talking to complete strangers about your industry can quite frankly be terrifying for a lot of us. What if you don’t know as much as you should? What if nobody understands what you do?
Networking is designed to take us out of our comfort zones from time to time. It’s a good idea to get out there and talk to people in your own industry, otherwise you spend too much time in your own bubble. You’ll be surprised with how many ideas you’ll get from networking events. Even if you leave an event feeling inspired, it’s definitely been worth it. It can be tempting at these events to go up to people who look like they’re on the same level as you – whether this is age-wise or professionally. It is of course human nature to find others who are most like us. However, this won’t benefit you in the long-term when it comes to networking effectively. You didn’t travel all that way to an event to essentially look into a professional mirror. Speak to managers and directors if you can. It can be difficult to do this if you’re in a fairly junior role, but they’ll be glad you approached them.
If you’re looking to advance your career, these are the people you need to speak to. If you’ve gone to an event where there have been several speakers, then try and start a conversation with one of the speakers after the presentation. Mention how interesting you found their presentation and if they can send you further details. This is where you’d give them a business card! Never forget to take business cards with you to a networking event. If you can’t give someone your contact details, it’s been a waste of time. If you find events like these difficult, take five business cards with you, and make sure you give each of them out. That way, you’ll know you’ve put yourself out there and gained a possible five brilliant professional connections.
Don’t leave it at that
Once you’ve obtained your contacts, you can’t just leave it at that. Maintain your connection with these people. A few days after the event, drop them an email or a phone call to discuss ideas you may have brought up at the time. Don’t just call them when you want something (unless they’ve offered you something themselves). Whether you send them an article which you’ll think will be of interest, or arranging a meeting – or even sending a thank you note for a favour they’ve done; these are all great ways to maintain your networks. Keep an eye on their business too. Have they recently re-branded or undergone a huge change? Next time you email them, mention it. They might be quite impressed with your knowledge of their company. It shows that you care about their place of work.
Some of your networks will eventually drop off the grid. This happens all the time and it’s more common than not. Sometimes it’s because the connection hasn’t been maintained, but usually it’s because people forget about their connections. You don’t want to be forgotten, but it may happen. If someone hasn’t emailed you first, don’t wait for them. Be proactive!
Networking is all about give and take. If you always email people when you need something and don’t have anything to offer, you won’t have a very well-maintained connection. Even if you don’t think you have anything to offer, you never know when the other person might need a contact within your company, for example. Make the gesture that you’re willing to return their favour if you can.
Practice makes perfect
It’s a cliché saying, but practice really does make perfect. If you’ve never networked before, don’t worry if after your first networking experience you haven’t come away with as much as you wanted. You’ve come away with some networking experience, which is invaluable.
Make sure before you go to a networking event that you’ve got some goals in mind, whether it’s to hand out five business cards, collect five business cards or just to see what’s going on in the industry – if you can take away three relevant and useful points from the experience, that’s great work.
Use your existing contacts
This isn’t always recommended, but networking with your existing friends can be fruitful. People change careers all the time, and your once-marketer friend has recently changed roles and now they work for a company just like yours! Most of the time you won’t want to mix business with friendships, but you might just get access to another key connection through a friend.
Mostly, networking is about showing confidence in what you do and who you are. If you can portray that clearly and professionally across a range of platforms, then you’ll be a networking superstar in no time!
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