I recently wrote a guest blog for Vitae on the power of networking; you may want to read it along with the comments here but I’ve also posted it below!
I’m a networker. I love meeting new people, connecting people and being able to help people out. However the word ‘networking’ often fills many people with dread – whether it’s fear of approaching people you don’t know, lack of time or simply not knowing what to do, many people tend to dismiss the idea. At the same time though, we all network in some way. It’s not just about attending networking events, as great as they can be; it’s about communication, through email, phone or through social media like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Networking is useful for your personal life – it helped me when I moved to London not knowing many people and provided me with a great recommendation when I was re-doing my kitchen! But more importantly it’s also an essential career tool. Your promotion or next career move may lie in the hands of someone you could be engaging and networking with.
“Why should I bother networking?” – To pick up valuable information, broaden your perspectives, find a mentor and to get advice from / connect with people in a similar position to you. It’s also a great sales tool to show people your capabilities and it’s a way for you to help people who may then be able to help you some day. Remember that your network doesn’t just consist of those people you know but their contacts too – a friend of a friend may come in handy.
“But I don’t know what to do!” – Think about what you want to achieve, from who, and how. You want to meet people who could help you, so perhaps colleagues, competitors or other professionals in your sector. However at the same time don’t dismiss those that you don’t think can help you straight away, as you never know when they may be a useful contact. Think about what they could provide for you and vice versa as networking is about giving as well as taking a look at different types of networking events and decide which is the best for you.
“Have you got any networking tips?” – When it comes to face to face networking make sure you look the part, and be aware of body language – smile and approach people to invite people to talk to you. Have a few opening questions ready to start the conversation and be interesting and listen. Most importantly make sure you follow up by sending an email for example – this will make sure you maximise on networking opportunities and don’t instantly forget each other. Also use social networking to keep in touch with contacts old and new.
Networking takes time and is an ongoing process that allows you to share ideas and information. But it can be hugely beneficial and it’s a tool that no professional can ignore. Give it a go – good luck!