Networking: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Networking has long been a business ‘buzzword’. In fact, so overused has the word become that the credibility of the concept as a serious business activity has become somewhat tainted with participants questioning people’s motivations for attending an event and also the value of the connections that are being made.

Despite this, numerous studies, case studies, and interviews have shown that knowing the right people can help you get a foot in the door—something that most of us have experienced at some point in our career.

Several studies have also proved that diverse interactions can help ideas grow from sparks of inspiration to fully formed innovations.

So what does successful networking look like?

Leverage your existing contacts
When attending an event; scout the room for familiar faces. While networking is focused on expanding your contact list don’t overlook a friend, acquaintance or former colleague in your quest to meet someone new. After all, they may themselves introduce you to new contacts at the event ensuring that not only is your circle widened, but that you effectively receive an informal ‘recommendation’ by being introduced in this way. Be sure to also return the favour, introducing people you know to each other if they aren’t already acquainted. 

Don’t attend every event; prioritise
People will tell you the more you can network, the better. And that can be true, to a point—but if you’re attending every event you become aware of or are invited to, maybe it’s time to become more selective.

Think about your business and your target audience, and aim to be present at the networking events that are well-attended by key stakeholders and potential clients. In this way, you are directing limited resources – especially your time – in a way that will bring maximum returns.

First impressions count, but maintaining dialogue is even more important
Whilst it’s true that first impressions matter – everyone knows that a bad first impression will make it difficult, although not impossible, to create a productive relationship with a contact – a great first impression doesn’t mean that your work is done.

Following up on the initial meeting, whether it was a three-minute conversation or an hour-long chat around a dinner table, with an email or phone call will increase your chances of fostering a long term relationship that yields results for both parties.

Be genuine and engaging
Historically, professionals have been commended for being able to ‘work the whole room’. Whilst this is a useful talent where everyone in the room is of equal value to you and a brief ‘hello’ is enough to sustain a relationship, networking is about having a more meaningful, in-depth conversation where it’s possible to find common ground. 

Quality trumps quantity when it comes to contacts.

It’s not just about work either! Nobody likes to feel as though someone is only talking to them because of their job title and how useful they can be to them. Try and discover mutual interests and ask questions about family, hobbies, holidays and other areas of someone’s life.

The best contacts are the ones where work is only part of the foundations on which your relationship is built.  

Think about what you can offer
When heading into a roomful of strangers, think: ‘What can I offer?’ instead of: ‘What can I get out of this?’ Instantly, your mind-set changes, focusing on what you can bring to the gathering rather than what you want to take out of it.

Be known as the ‘problem solver’, ‘the person who always knows the right person to put you in touch with’, ‘the guest most likely to pull people into a discussion if they can see they are sitting nervously on the side-lines’. Be that person rather than the ‘needy networker’.

Networking isn’t an easy skill to master, but with plenty of practice you will get there and, ultimately, reap the rewards of an increased profile and connections.

Here at Elevation we are an integrated Group of multi-disciplined recruitment specialists. Our recruitment consultants are reliable, long serving and trusted, and are specifically trained to offer career development advice.

If you are an individual looking for your next challenge and wish to discuss how the Elevation Recruitment Group can assist your search, increase your connections and help you to take your career to the next level, please contact us today.

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