How to be a master at networking

It’s often thought that networking is an uncomfortable business activity and is just a place for people to sell themselves.

But it’s the opposite; regular networking can open doors, introduce you to new people and is a great place for knowledge sharing.

There is a subtle art behind successful and authentic networking. Besides the work that goes into figuring out your motives, finding your approach, and creating compelling conversations; a lot of hard work needs to go into maintaining the relationships you form too. Here’s our five-step guide to mastering networking.

Determine your goals

Networking can be time-consuming and a bit of a minefield if you’re not focused on what you want to achieve.

Are you wanting to meet new people in your industry? Or meet a mentor who can give you career advice? Or perhaps you want to build your interpersonal skills?

By identifying your goals, it will help you plan what type of events you need to attend, the type of people you want to meet, and how you prepare to talk to new connections. 

We would also recommend creating three time-specific objectives to breakdown your overall goal; for example, ‘I want to have made contact with senior people in 10 Engineering SMEs in the local areas’ or ‘I want to attend a minimum of one industry event a month and speak to at least three peers, career mentors or experts at each event.’


Attend events

Networking mainly takes place at industry or business events. It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and other professionals who can help you achieve your goals.

Most conferences and networking events are easy to find. You can use Eventbrite to find local events that are specific to your industry. Alternatively, sign up to online business communities or organisations to get notifications of these events.

You can use these networking events to make new connections and then, you’ll be able to follow up and cultivate those relationships with meaningful one-on-one conversations.

Become a good listener

Listening is the most important skill you need to network. Through listening, you build a bond of trust, and you gather information to see how you can help someone else and how you or your network can be helped.

When you really listen, people get the feeling that they have strong contact with you and that you are interested in them. The result is that they become more open and that they share more information about themselves. Then you are actually starting to build a relationship.

 It’s not you, it’s me

When it’s your turn to share what you do, state it in just a couple of sentences. If anything catches someone’s attention, they’ll ask questions, but people will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase.

Avoid using industry jargon or over complicating what you’re trying to say. The key to effective networking is to build relationships, so if someone can’t understand what you’re talking about, you won’t get off to a good start.

We advise that you read up on the latest industry topics or the subject of the event to have something worth discussing, and which would be a good conversation starter.

One of the most popular concerns about networking is moving on to talk to other people. A polite way to address this is to approach it warmly and be genuine, say something along the lines of: “It’s been great to meet you. I had better get around and meet some more people before the end.”

 
Keep networking online

Connecting with people after an event is vital to building professional relationships.

Send connection requests on LinkedIn with a personalised note. Let each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mention something that you talked about. It’s important to remember that networking is about giving and not taking. Connections will only value you if you can offer them something. Maybe provide them with a solution to a problem they are facing or a new idea for their business.

Post about attending the event on your LinkedIn or other professional social media accounts. Thank everyone for attending and if there was a speaker or discussion panel, talk about key points that were mentioned. If there were any open questions or discussions left without a conclusion, then share your point of view or a new solution to the situation. This way you can show that you are involved and there’s a reason to connect with you.

Keeping the conversation going after an initial follow up will turn connections into valuable relationships. LinkedIn offers an excellent solution for this. You can use the LinkedIn relationship tab to keep notes of conversations so that when you meet up at the next event, you can follow up on these discussions. 

Career coach and connector, Sarah Stanley says: "We can all benefit from the advice of others during our careers.

Different people in your network can help you identify companies that are recruiting, give you information about specialist roles you are interested in and/or connect you with others in their network.

Remember – don’t put people on the spot and make them feel as if they must find you a job! Simply ask for their advice and you will find that most people will want to help you just as you will be able to help others during your career.”


Extra tip…

Volunteer some time

If you can, donate your time to a good cause, not only does it feel good to give your time to others in need, it can help grow your confidence and interpersonal skills which will help with networking.

Volunteering can help you grow your social network by exposing you to people who share your passions and personal values. You can also volunteer for a professional association to grow career-related contacts as well. Along the way, you may meet mentors and new friends with fresh job leads.

Volunteering can also help your career in many other ways, check out our blog to find out more - https://www.elevationrecruitmentgroup.com/careers-advice/5-ways-volunteering-can-benefit-your-career

 

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