How to network successfully
Published: 30 Nov 2016
Introverts often see this as a tragic state of affairs. But, sadly, life isn’t always fair, and humans are social creatures. We’re far more likely to pay attention to someone’s CV after we’ve met them. Similarly, we’re far more open to speculative applications when they come from someone we’ve met in person, who we already know is an outstanding candidate.
Those simple facts mean meeting the right person can do far more for your career than sending out fifty immaculate CV and covering letter combinations, and that makes networking skills highly desirable in the modern marketplace.
If you’re the kind of person who sees networking as a sleazy, awkward disaster in the making – and if you’ve got no idea how to network successfully – this can prove problematic. But fear not. Networking doesn’t have to be horrible as it sounds. By shifting your outlook and by following a few simple rules of thumb, networking can actually become a – dare we say it? – pleasant experience.
The trick, of course, is knowing what to say and how to act to help achieve your goals. And that’s something our networking tips can help you with.
Whether you’re at a formal networking event or you happen to have bumped into someone in a less formal setting, employ our top networking tips and you’ll come off better than you ever thought possible.
Essential Networking Tip Number 1: Help Others Before Helping Yourself
This might seem counter intuitive, but approaching networking with the aim of helping others takes the pressure off entirely. It helps you relax and your helpful attitude will almost always be reciprocated. And if you don’t think you’ve got anything to offer, think again. Simply introducing two people who have the potential for a productive working relationship will be hugely appreciated by both parties.
Essential Networking Tip Number 2: Have a Winning Opening Line
The most difficult thing about networking is initiating conversation, so have a go-to opening line prepared in advance. And make sure it’s a good one. We recommend ‘how has your week been so far?’ coupled with the follow up ‘what’s been the best bit?’ This shows genuine interest, allows people to introduce themselves professionally and ensures they won’t give you a one word answer. That’s three boxes ticked right from the off.
Essential Networking Tip Number 3: Perfect Your Own Pitch
At some point, you’re going to be asked what you do, so make sure you’re prepared for this. Now’s not the time for selling yourself short, nor is it the time for a lengthy monologue. A sharp, to the point statement about what you do, perhaps some insight into your experience level and a brief hint at what you’d like to do in the future is usually a winning formula – and as cringe worthy as it sounds, it might be worth saying this out loud beforehand.
Essential Networking Tip Number 4: Have Business Cards
Following your altruistic shift in attitude, people are going to want to contact you post-networking event or informal conversation. And you’re going to want them to contact you, too, so make sure you have a handful of business cards available at all times. They don’t need to be flash; they just need to say who you are and what you do. Hand them out when you have good reason to and you’ll begin expanding your network in no time whatsoever.
Essential Networking Tip Number 5: Follow Up!
Simple follow up emails are now the accepted norm. In fact, if you’ve made a new contact – whether at a formal networking event or not – it’s borderline rude not to follow up. So make sure you send a quick email to any new business contact you meet, perhaps pointing out how you may be able to help in the future. And make sure you send it in a timely manner… an email over a week later is once again impolite and could well lead to confusion, especially if your new contact met more than a handful of people at a formal networking event.
Entire books have been written on the topic of networking – which underlines the fact that this list is by no means exhaustive. Those interested in further reading may wish to flick through How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie, perhaps the very first book ever published on the subject.
For the rest of us, simply following the above five networking tips will put you in a better place than if you were to shun them altogether. Combine them with a friendly smile and an open mind and watch as your networking skills soar.