City : Career Elevator : Networking
What is Networking?
Networking occurs when you meet with other business people either within your sector or from your local area and share your ideas and skills with other potential collegues and employers - a way of getting yourself out there!
These opportunities can happen at formal meetings, conferences or at specialist networking clubs, although some networking may even be informal conversations around the kettle!
Check out local business events and networking opportunities with Slough Aspire on the council wesbite, here.
A lot of people also use LinkedIn to network - you can set up a profile which states your employment and education history, and what skills you have, as well as following companies you're interested in for updates.
Our Top Ten Networking Tips...
1) Be confident
It can be incredibly intimidating to start talking to someone you don’t know very well - especially if they're high up in a company - but networking is a really important part of business.
Being able to network successfully is a skill you will need to learn, and it will come more naturally once you've tried it a few times. It is normal to be nervous even if you've got lots of experience, but take a few deep breaths, calm the nerves, and introduce yourself!
Remember, everyone has been the new person at an event and they may feel as nervous as you are - so no need to worry.
2) Be proactive
When networking, you have to make the most of opportunities to meet people. Rather than waiting for people to come to you, it's best to pluck up the courage to go over to them and introduce yourself.
If you want to be super pro-active, do your research. Try and find out in advance who will be attending and the companies they work for.
Knowing who is likely to attend from what company gives you an opportunity to make sure you talk to the right people... it also gives you a good starting point for conversation e.g. "I hear your company recently won an award for excellent customer service."
3) Be patient
If you meet someone that you don't think will be of great help your career right now, don’t immediately think they are no good to you.
It is important to develop relationships that can benefit you now and in the future. Networking is a lifelong activity so don’t expect every networking opportunity to end up in immediate success!
4) Be genuine
When you're networking, it's important to sell yourself and share your successes - but you must be genuine!
It's true that nobody is going to know how good you are unless you tell them. Explain you're successes in your current role and how you are working well within the company...
...BUT remember not to overdo it. Use real, genuine examples and discuss how you overcame problems rather than just saying how great you were.
It's difficult finding a balance between sharing success and being humble, but with practice you can get it!
5) Think about body language
At networking events it is important to look friendly and open to talking to people.
When talking to people look them in the eye and make sure to actually listen to what they are saying. Try and avoid folding your arms and keep smiling (even if on the inside you are planning your exit route!)
6) Focus on developing relationships
You shouldn’t start networking with someone with the direct intention to get X, Y or Z out of the conversation. Your focus should be on building a relationship with the person you are talking to, allowing them to see who you are and what you can do.
Another important factor to remember is that networking is as much about you being there for other people as it is them being there for you. A good way to approach people is to find a common connection. This could be anything from growing up in the same area to watching the same sports.
It's good to be interested in people - and whatever you do don’t talk over them!
7) Don't turn down opportunities
You never know where life might take you next, and by growing your network outside your industry or interests you may open up opportunities that you never even thought of!
No person in your network is irrelevant - so keep chatting and discover all sorts of opportunities!
8) Follow up
As with any other relationship you have to put effort in and make contact every now-and-again.
Some people might not reply to an email or a phone call for days or even weeks, so don’t expect responses immediately, but make sure to follow up on meetings you've had so that people remember you and stay in touch.
This is where LinkedIn is really handy - if you find a person you have spoken to you can add them to your network where you can see their updates and they can see yours!
9) Connect other people
Don’t try to keep your network all to yourself, introduce your contacts to other contacts.
This will mean that people will see you as proactive, and professional. It will also mean that people will introduce contacts to you as well!
However, make sure that you are connecting people who will be interested in talking to each other and not just doing it for the sake of it.
10) Use your phone
When following-up or getting to know someone emails are easy to send, but if you really want to speak to someone and develop a relationship then you should pick up the phone.
Phone communication means your personality can really come across!
Even better – arrange a meeting in person or organize to meet at the next local networking event!