Networking advice to get you started

During the early days of your career networking can seem daunting; especially when we’re told we need to be informed and interesting to people who may well be more senior and experienced than we are. No pressure then!

It’s also common to hear certain clichés about networking; especially from colleagues who’ve been there, done it, and worn the t-shirt. You might by now be a bit tired of hearing ‘just get out there’, for example. Especially if you are more inclined to think that if you are going to do it you want to do it well - which in reality means taking a considered approach, engaging with the right people and making real connections.

The bottom line is that successful networking comes more naturally to some than others and so, with this in mind, we’re offering the following advice to bear in mind ahead of your next (possibly even your first?) networking event.

Seek out the unknown

It’s very tempting when entering a room to gravitate towards those people you already know and have encountered on the circuit before – or perhaps other people from your own company. However, this won’t necessarily get you what you need or make the most of an often early start to your working day. Instead, focus on introducing yourself to people you don’t know.

Move

Once you’ve introduced yourself to people you don’t know and engaged in conversation and/or exchanged contact details – move on! Now that you’re here, you might as well make the most of it.

Try not to fall into the trap of clinging to the same people for the entire time, although of course that doesn’t mean end the conversation abruptly if some kind of progress towards a productive or profitable relationship is being made.

Know when to stop (and what not to say)

It’s not uncommon for people to find that when they are nervous they say just a little bit too much. Be clear in your mind beforehand the messages you want to convey and how you want to be perceived, and you should find it easier to stay on track.

It’s also crucial to remember not to get too heavily entrenched in conversations more personal in nature. This is, after all, not a social event in the strictest sense of the word, and you’re not here to make friends – you’re here to make meaningful, professional connections.

Remember to be SMART

Typically, SMART is used when setting goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed -and whilst not all of those elements are relevant it does provide some guidance when looking to arrange the next steps with any connections you have made. There’s a vast difference between saying ‘we’ll meet soon for coffee’ and saying ‘I’d like to meet with you within the next month, if that works for you, so that we can talk more about our businesses’. See the difference?

If they say yes to the latter chances are they’re interested in what you have to say (and possibly even what you have to sell!).

Don’t be disheartened

All too often fledgling networkers give up on attending events because they ‘don’t see any return on investment’, but try not to let the lack of immediate leads get you down.

Whilst it is very unlikely that attendance at a local get together will result in an immediate new business win for your company you will find that the leads start to trickle through over time. And there’s always a possibility that even then you won’t be able to link them directly to that wet Wednesday evening when you met so-and-so from such-and-such a place!

So don’t lose heart!

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