As we all know by now, networking is an invaluable way of furthering your career, and expanding your knowledge of your chosen field. Possession of specific attributes and qualifications are of course essential, but networking in the right manner is a surefire way to advance your prospects.
When forming professional connections, you’re ultimately presented with an opportunity to establish yourself within your industry and build mutually beneficial relationships. Taking time to suss out the movers and shakers of your sector holds huge potential for you- if you manage to network efficiently, there’s plenty of scope for landing that dream job. So how do you start perfecting your networking skills?
Recognise and take advantage of opportunities
One of the most important proficiencies you can possess is the ability to recognise opportunities. This might not necessarily be something you will pick up overnight, but practice makes perfect.
Look for opportunities to work with others in your industry- while events and workshops offer plenty of networking potential, keep in mind that these aren’t the only places that you can make connections.
Try to treat situations where you brush shoulders with other professionals as opportunities to build your network. You ultimately want to demonstrate your visibility in your industry, and build a solid reputation for yourself. This can be done by attending meetings or conferences with your place of work; whenever you meet another professional, introduce yourself and ask leading questions about their career. This will help you get used to interacting with new people, and you can then keep in touch through social networks or via email.
Stay focused with personal networking goals
We can aim to attend an event with the best intentions, but the reality of presenting yourself to strangers can be quite an intimidating prospect. How many times do you end up mingling only with the people you know, and hesitating to reach out to someone new?
With this in mind, try and set yourself some realistic goals; something as simple as swapping business cards with someone at an event, or finding a networking opportunity each month is a great place to start. You could also set up some digital goals too, such as striking up new connections through LinkedIn and Twitter.
Keep things relaxed and personable
This is far easier said than done! It can be nerve wracking to negotiate new social situations, so do your best to stay focused on your networking aims. Keep your body language open; that means no crossed arms, and plenty of eye contact. Warm handshakes and a friendly approach will also stand you in good stead.
Try and start up a conversation- a chat about your place of work/industry is a great start, or even a discussion about the event itself works as a suitable icebreaker. It can also be beneficial to pre-prepare some key conversation starters in case you get caught out, as well as keeping those business cards handy. As the conversation flows, you’ll be able to get to know people on a more personal level, thus providing you with opportunities to establish a more authentic relationship.
By adopting these forms of behaviour, you’ll find that the quality of your connections will increase, and your network will become useful and valuable. Remember that it’s not necessarily about the number of contacts you have; the quality of the relationships you build are key to successful networking.
Always Follow Up
As such, the only way business networking is effective is if you make a conscious effort to stay in touch with the people you meet. An easy way to do so is to sending a quick email or message to your new connections. As your relationship grows, you can meet to discuss industry updates, formulate new ideas, and provide mutual support in your business endeavours.
These ideas serve as an excellent starting point to build a network that becomes a valuable asset to you. Utilise your contacts and connections as much as you can- if there’s a specific career path you’re hoping to follow, you can use networking to your advantage to enhance your career prospects.
It can sometimes feel like hard work to meet new people, but the more you become used to interacting with strangers, you should find that making connections should be far less overwhelming than initially expected.