Networking - a lot of us loathe it, some of us have never done it and a handful of us are very good at it. However, it is most likely that we are all going to have to network at some stage of our careers, so, how do we become good at it?
I personally like to think of networking as socialising with people you don't yet know, just as if you were invited as a plus one to your friend's brother's party. This an opportunity to make potential friends for the future and enjoy yourself.
However often it feels like something we must do and our motivations may be both selfish and artificial in which we are asking ourselves: what can they offer me?
Maybe we should act in a more genuine way...
Read my 8 tips which I believe will make you a better networker:
1. Quality over quantity:
When you go to a networking event it is not about handing a business card out to the whole room, more so about talking to a handful of people who are applicable to you and your line of business. This way you will end up with a couple of people who are willing to partnership with you rather than 50 who are aware of who you are.
2. Don't assume you will get anything
You will be a far more successful networker if you try to offer something to others rather than expecting to receive a favour. Ask questions, be interested and don't seem desperate. Aim to talk to those who are both relevant and stimulating. Ask yourself how you can help them, demonstrate them some value and you will end up reaping the rewards in the long run.
3. Don't just talk to the important people
At a recent networking event, the first person I talked to was an intern. In terms of value she could offer me, she was one of the least important people to me in the room. However, we got on well, and it turned out she worked just down the road from me, so we discussed we could meet for lunch. She was also undertaking similar duties to me in a rival firm. I may have just made a contact and even friend for life and who knows where she may be in 2-3 years time. If I had made my excuses after hearing she was an intern I would never have known.
4. Identify their needs
Listening is key: in order to develop a relationship with someone you must identify their needs and be receptive to them before you can tell them about yours. Let the conversation develop without drawing too much on your own goals, if you want to remain in contact with them you need to know what matters to them.
5. Don't pigeonhole yourself
Don't just speak to people within your industry or level of experience. You will broaden your own knowledge by talking to people from a variety of industries. Building your network outside of your industry will also make you far more valuable to those within your industry.
6. Introduce others
Introducing people is a great way to widen your own network. Whether this is at an event - you've spoken to two people who are studying for the same qualification, or on LinkedIn you see two people you know with similar views on an issue - introduce them and without even realising you have already given value to them.
7. Keep contact succinct
If you do decide to contact someone you have met, keep it short, sweet and personal. Draw on something the person told you about themselves or something they were doing you could ask them about. You want the person to reply and from there on you can go into further detail about your requests/ needs or questions.
8. Just a little planning
Whilst you don't want to make every relationship with achieving a goal in mind - it does help to consider what your own ‘need' is and who you will need to meet to satisfy this. It is useful to find a list of who is attending a networking event before you go and identify a few key people you would like to meet rather than leaving it to chance.
Networking need not be a tricky art or something for us to dread. Don't take it too seriously, be yourself and use it as a chance to make lasting relationships whilst discussing interesting topics with like minded individuals. It doesn't sound so bad now does it?! Before you know it you will have a growing and varied network to call upon. Got some networking tips to share? We would love to hear them!