Networking is how you develop professional relationships, where you can help others and receive assistance yourself to meet individual or organisational goals.
Developing and maintaining a network of contacts should be a long-term career strategy. By networking and being visible within your community it is more likely that someone will think of you if a new, exciting opportunity arises. Some of the best options for networking include:
Attending events – either specific networking events or any other events you attend, where you can meet people during sessions or breaks.
Joining relevant professional associations – these will provide many opportunities to meet with like-minded people in your sector.
Maintaining links with alumni associations – it is easy to talk to people if you have the common experience of studying at the same university.
Taking part in online networking websites or discussion groups.
Face-to-face networking is the best way of making a lasting connection – if you make a good impression on someone, they will be more likely to keep in touch with you. To increase your chance of making strong links at events, consider the following tips:
If you receive a list of delegates before an event, carry out some research online into the organisations or work of those attending. This will help you to identify if there is anyone you would like to meet.
Prepare to give a short and interesting statement about your work, because it is likely you will be asked what you do.
Make sure you bring business cards along – it will be more useful to you to get cards from those you meet, but this will allow you to provide your contact details in return.
Follow all the guidelines regarding conducting yourself professionally, as you would in any other working environment.
Engage with other people no matter what career stage they have reached. You never know how their career will develop, and they will value helpful connections made early on in their professional life.
When you meet someone new, show an interest in their work, listen to their views, and be prepared to have a conversation rather than trying to sell yourself.
A first meeting should never be about you asking for a favour. If possible, offer to help them instead (for example suggesting an introduction to someone with a mutual interest or expertise already in your network).
After your first meeting follow up by getting in contact within a week or two, to start building your professional relationship. You will need to keep in touch as your career develops (whether online or catching up at subsequent events) so that you remain an active part of their network. Continue to offer your help whenever it is needed, and they will think of you in return if they hear of an opportunity appropriate to your expertise.
For ideas of events to attend, visit our What's on page.
One of the most useful tools for professional networking online is LinkedIn. To help you network online consider the following pointers:
Customise any connection requests you make to new contacts, so it is clear you have understood their views and value their expertise.
Join and contribute to discussion groups of people who have similar interests to you. This will raise your profile and increase your networking opportunities.
Posts in groups should not be used for marketing yourself or your company. Consider what you share and tailor it to show how it will benefit others in the group, and your contribution will be well-received.
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Featured image: Jed Villejo/Unsplash
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