Networking: Mastering the Basics
- June 7, 2023
Networking doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone, and sometimes even the thought of it can be met with apprehension or worse, sheer anxiety when placed in a situation that can be emotionally or mentally draining.
That being said, investing time to hone your skills will pay dividends in the long run, not only helping you to expand your customer base but also providing opportunities for mentorship, career growth, and collaboration.
As an essential skill, networking has huge potential to open up new opportunities for aspiring professionals across a number of sectors, and play a major part in their career success. And, whilst it’s a given that not everyone is comfortable networking, those in customer or business development-type roles will certainly benefit from being at least competent in this area. Yes…you might be worried about what to say, or how to introduce yourself to new people, especially if you’re surrounded by reputable professionals, but, in reality, it’s relatively easy to become a pro with a little bit of extra practice.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind.
Seek guidance from a fellow professional
Consider who you know to be an impressive networker and could provide you with some helpful advice on how to approach it to form professional bonds. This could be a family member or friend, colleague or even someone from your time at university or college. At the very least, they are likely to let you bounce some ideas off them which will enable you to sharpen and hone your skills.
Waiting for networking opportunities to come your way won’t yield significant results – you need to be proactive. Take the initiative to attend and relevant industry events, seminars, conferences, and sector specific get togethers. Through your employment , you may be invited to join more formal professional networking events. However, do seek out other associations that can equally provide fantastic opportunities to widen the net in your professional network. A well know organisation that attracts businesses from many sectors is the British Chambers of Commerce and whose whole premise is on built on the value in professional networking. Being an active members of such platforms and associations will undoubtedly give you a great foundation and springboard to networking in usually informal settings, yet still add a huge amount of value to those starting out and progressing in their career.
Always come prepared
Perhaps an old-school networking method, but still an effective one, having a business card on hand can be extremely useful when actively networking with other professionals, and even more so in the non-professional conversations you have on a daily basis that could give rise to networking opportunities. When they come your way, you want to have a way of capitalising on them. And this leads to an even more important factor in networking – having an ‘always on’ mindset is crucial if you want to do this as effectively as possible. While you don’t need to shoehorn your career passion into every interaction, looking at networking this way can help you improve your social skills in these ‘lower-risk’ situations and build confidence for the bigger conversations you might have with employers or reputable professionals down the line.
Prepare your pitch
One of the most important parts of networking is your initial pitch – and first impressions count. How will you introduce and describe yourself to people in an engaging yet concise way? Again, the best way to do this effectively is to get feedback from fellow professionals in your network; ask them to listen to your pitch and offer constructive criticism if required. However, you should also be careful not to over-rehearse, nothing sounds less authentic than an overly polished introduction.
Set realistic targets
If you’re attending an event with 500 delegates you don’t necessarily need to speak to every single one of them. Consider your reasons for actually attending the event. Are you looking for new commercial opportunities or are you perhaps lining up your potential next employer? Identify your key targets and set aside time to speak to them wherever possible. It’s far better to have five in-depth conversations with relevant stakeholders than 100 shorter meetings with anyone and everyone you can find.
Find common ground
The best networkers don’t just stick to the stuffier topics when networking. They recognise it’s about showing empathy and finding out more about the person that they’re talking to. Finding common ground is of paramount importance. Whether that’s football, cycling, your children or anything else you can think of, it’s easier to build stronger relationships if you have some sort of shared interest.
It’s all well and good meeting people at an event, but it means little if you don’t keep the conversations going by following them up. If it helps, make a short note on the business cards that you’re given to remind you about the individual and then follow up on any information you promised to send over the next day. This leads on to another key point; the importance of reciprocity. People are likely to feel much more inclined to help you if you can offer something that helps them. That means if you know a solution to a problem that someone you met was struggling with, pass it across to them. People are more likely to remember you based on how you make them feel, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to make their lives easier by addressing problems they have. This is how you facilitate reciprocity in professional relationships.
Find value in online networking
Whilst face to face is perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when you think of ‘networking’ In today’s digital age, online platforms provide working professionals with invaluable opportunities to connect with others outside of their local vicinity. Platforms like LinkedIn offer a wealth of resources for individuals to showcase their expertise, connect with peers, join industry-specific groups, and share valuable insights through thought leadership content. Actively participating in online discussions, and engaging with other professionals worldwide can equally be hugely beneficial – building your personal brand, marketing your services and that of your company, and gaining insight and updates relating to your specific role and sector. For industry specific online networks, groups like the Meetup are also a virtual hive of activity, promoting access to news and resources to support career and personal development, as well as opportunities to connect with other like-minded individuals who share the same interests, passions, and career goals.
Networking in any sector isn’t straightforward and some professionals will find it much more difficult than others, whilst others may choose to bypass it altogether.
However, learning the skills around professional networking is essential for those looking to thrive and progress from a career perspective – not only forging strong relationships for their own personal development, but using it as an opportunity to market themselves (and their bussiness) to potential stakeholders and customers.
By being proactive, building genuine relationships, utilising online platforms, and staying connected, individuals can create a robust professional network that opens doors to new opportunities, enhances their careers, and contributes to long-term success.
About Clayton Recruitment
Clayton Recruitment has been partnering with organisations across the country since 1989 and during that time has built up an excellent reputation for trust and reliability.
With specialist divisions covering Commercial, Financial, and Engineering appointments, on a permanent basis.
If you are building your existing team or looking for your next career move, we can help. And, if you are currently employed, you can be assured of complete confidentiality, professionalism, and honesty throughout the process – as standard.
Click here to speak to one of our experienced specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.