Think of ‘networking’ and it may conjure up images of awkwardly sipping wine in a hotel function room, trying desperately to appear engaging and interesting while winning a few business cards in the process. It’s something that most people think we should be doing more of, but many find the idea tedious and uncomfortable.
For those that want to progress their career, the importance of networking should not be underestimated. “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, may seem like an outdated adage in our complex world – but by some estimates, nearly 80% of job vacancies are never advertised. In addition to providing access to the ‘informal job market’, being effective at networking will open you up to ideas, information and advice that will help you be better at your job and more respected in your industry.
And the truth is, being a great networker is actually pretty simple. At the end of the day, networking is about making connections with other human beings. But for those who aren’t sure where to start, we’ve put together some simple steps for networking your way to career success.
Our Top Networking Tips
1 - Always be networking
Networking doesn’t happen overnight, it’s about building meaningful relationships over time, and viewing all interactions as important. Make it a habit of staying in touch with old colleagues and clients. You never know who might be able to recommend you to your dream company in the future, so it pays to be nice to everyone!
2 - Make a networking plan
If you want to get the most out of networking for career progression, it helps to be strategic and methodical. Make a list of the key influencers in your industry who you’d like to develop relationships with, starting with those you already know, and make it a goal to eventually make contact with every person on that list. Imagine trying to ‘move people up the list’ from minor acquaintances to people who remember and like you.
3 - Don’t be afraid to ask!
Push yourself out of your comfort zone and reach out to people spontaneously over email or Linked In with a specific request. “I can see you’ve worked in X industry for some time. I’m interested in breaking into it, I wondered if you would be able to spare 10 minutes for some advice?” Or, “I hear you know James, he’s hiring for a position I’m really interested in. Would you mind introducing me to him?”. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Not everyone will respond or be able to help you, but many will. People like helping people, especially if you can add value to them too. Which brings us on to….
4 - Add value to people wherever you can
Always think about what you have to offer people; whether it’s information, advice, leads, introductions, technical expertise – even when they have nothing to share with you. What goes around comes around: people will remember you for helping them out.
5 - At functions, you’ll be rewarded for listening
Listen and show genuine interest in the person you are talking to; you will come across far more likeable than if you try too hard to say something ‘interesting’ or engage in blatant self-promotion. (Dale Carnegie promotes this strategy in the bestseller ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’)
6 - Always follow up
After speaking to someone at an event or exchanging business cards, always strengthen the interaction by dropping them a short, friendly email afterwards. It could go something along the lines of “Great to meet you earlier, here is the link to the article I mentioned – hopefully you’ll find it an interesting read”. This will make you more memorable and pave the way for contact in the future.
7 - Be prepared
Always carry up to date business cards with you, and if appropriate, have your elevator pitch ready.
8 - Finally, just be yourself
Relationships are built on authenticity and trust. Don’t try too hard - remember, the people you may be desperately trying to impress are just that… people.
It’s never too late to start building your network - and have confidence because your network could become your secret weapon that turbo charges your career!
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