City : Career Climbing Pastures : Networking
Networking allows you to meet with other business people either within your sector or from your local area. These opportunities happen at formal meetings, conferences or at specialist networking clubs (it may even be informal conversations around the kettle!). Below are some tips on how to network and make the most out of it.
It can be incredibly intimidating to go and start talking to someone you don’t know very well, but it is a really important part of business and is a skill you will need to learn. It is normal to be nervous but take a few deep breaths and introduce yourself.
Remember everyone has been the new person at an event and they may feel as nervous as you are so no need to worry.
It is so easy to see through someone who is trying to fake it, so don’t lie or pretend to be something you’re not. Just be honest and friendly.
Develop Common Ground
A good way to make a connection with someone is to build on a common connection. This could be anything from growing up in the same area to watching the same sports or even having mutual friends, so be interested in people, and whatever you do don’t talk over them or talk at them.
When you are attending a networking event try and find out in advance who will be attending and the companies they work for. Knowing who is likely to attend gives you an opportunity to make sure you talk to the right people and gives you a good starting point for conversation e.g. "I hear your company recently won an award for excellent customer service."
At networking events it is important to look friendly and open to talking to people. When talking to people look them in the eye and listen to what they are saying. Don’t fold your arms and keep smiling (even if on the inside you are planning your exit route!)
Just because the person that you meet can’t help you right now, don’t immediately think they are no good to you. It is important to develop relationships that may benefit you now or in the future. Networking is a lifelong activity so don’t expect every possibility in your network to come back with something immediately.
Be Your Own Biggest Fan
Nobody is going to know how good you are unless you tell them. Draw on your experiences and explain what you do currently and what your work has meant for the company you work for or the customers you are serving.
But remember don't overdo it!
Focus on Developing Relationships
You shouldn’t start networking with someone with the direct intention to get X, Y or Z out of the conversation. Your focus should be on building a relationship with the person you are talking to, allowing them to see who you are and what you can do. You shouldn’t expect someone to do you a favour (although they may offer to do so). Another important factor to remember is that networking is as much about you being there for other people as it is them being there for you.
You have to make the most of opportunities to meet people - don’t just expect it to fall in your lap. If you want to have some direction you could even create a list of people you want to get in touch with or meet face to face.
Don't Turn Down Opportunities
You never know where life might take you next and by growing your network outside your industry or interests you may open up opportunities that you never even thought of. No person in your network is irrelevant.
Connect other People
Don’t try to keep your network all to yourself, introduce contacts to other contacts. This will mean that people will see you as proactive, and professional. It will also mean that people will introduce contacts to you as well! However, make sure that you are connecting people who will be interesting to each other and not just doing it for the sake of it.
As with any other relationship you have to put effort in and make contact every now-and-again. Don’t forget people or lose touch with them but also don’t badger them as they may be busy. Some people might not reply to an email or a phone call for days or even weeks, so don’t expect responses immediately. But this is not an excuse to ignore people yourself, if you are contacted reply helpfully and promptly. A good way of staying in contact is to remember to follow-up with an offer of help or a discussion from when you last met – LinkedIn is a valuable on-line tool to remind people who you are and send informal messages to people in your network.
For some advice on how to make the most of a LinkedIn profile check out the advice here.
Use Your Phone
Emails are easy to send but if you really want to speak to someone and develop a relationship then you should pick up the phone. Phone communication means your personality can really come across.