Networking in HR
Some individuals take to networking with ease, while others dread speaking to strangers. For the majority its a Challenge. Whether youre on the board of directors, or searching for your first position in HR, theres a raft of ways to network.
Social networks with a business theme, such as LinkedIn, can keep you in touch and give you the opportunity to join ongoing discussions about industry issues. A blog can be a great way to show off your knowledge and commenting on articles in the press or the blogosphere helps get your opinions known. However, HR is a people business and there's little substitute for face-to-face engagement.
Case study: the forum3 network
At People Unlimited, we're so conscious of the power of face to face networks that we have been running forum3, the UKs largest not-for-profit career fair. This years event is on September 24-25 and gives HR professionals from third sector organisations a chance to link up, debate the issues that concern them and attend seminars from industry leaders.
forum3 is designed to be a place for people to make connections that could change their career. However, two full days of opportunities and attending an event with 15,000 other people can be daunting. Even the most confident people can feel frightened in formal networking situations, and its easy to drift aimlessly without speaking to anyone because you dont feel comfortable.
Face to face networking is a vital skill and its not as hard as people think once you have some tricks up your sleeve. Here are some top tips to get the best out of any busy networking event.
Think about how you approach networksThink about what you want to get out of the event - who do you want to meet and what do you want to learn more about?
See who might be attending on any pre-event literature or websites, or once at the event spend the first five minutes reviewing the program guide or quickly scan the name tag table. The best networkers use their time wisely to work out a purposeful method to tackling the event.
Plan your introductionYoull be expected to say who you are, what you do and what youre looking for lots of times at the event, so make sure youre ready.
The beginning of a conversation may be when youre the most nervous, but its when you make the biggest impression. Rehearse your hello, and develop a 60-second pitch that sums you up when people ask.
Bag the right informationIf youre attending an event to gather literature or business cards, make sure you have somewhere to put them. Take a pen so you can add notes - it will help you remember who you met and what the next steps might be.
Be organized and ruthless about what you keep and collect; theres nothing worse than losing the most important business card in a mountain of unnecessary brochures.
Be the best version of yourself
Wear something comfortable but that shows you in the best light. People make judgments quickly and your first impression can be helped by looking professional and confident. People will not take you seriously if you're too casual or scruffy, but its no use feeling self-conscious or uncomfortable in clothes that are too formal, tight or stiff.
Similarly, real networking is about being genuine and authentic - theres no point putting on a fa??ade or pretending youre someone youre not. Be confident in yourself and honest about your experience and motivations. Every person you meet is a chance to start a new relationship, and if it progresses they will soon find out who you really are.
Ask lots of questionsNetworking gives you opportunities to find out information that could literally change your life. Dont be afraid to write down questions in advance if youre afraid youll forget when youre nervous; you will only look prepared and motivated.
Remember, its your opportunity to assess prospective clients, employers and employees too - you need to feel comfortable that they are right fit for your career path, business plan and ambitions too.
Sing your own praises
If its a busy and crowded event, you need to make an impression quickly. When asked about your job or skills, talk about what youve achieved, not just what your tasks were. Not only will it make you stand out in peoples minds, but also gives the person you meet an interesting topic to start a conversation.
If youre taking a CV, make sure it is up-to-date and blows your own trumpet. If you have a business card, dont forget to hand it out.
Talk to everyone
Everyone at the event has something to teach you; they wouldnt be there if they didnt share your interest. Exchange email addresses with everyone, from people on stalls to people in the drinks or coffee queue. If youre attending the event on your own, its always easier to approach someone else who is also on their own. They may have been nervous about talking to someone too and be relieved you have broken the ice.
However, dont be tempted to get stuck talking to one person; your big opportunity could be the next person you speak to. Keep an eye on the time and dont be afraid to break off the conversation and move on. Be friendly, you can always follow up with them later.
Follow up after the eventSchedule some time the next day or later in the week to follow up with the people you met. An email to thank someone for their time helps them remember you, and gives you another chance to tell them something you may have forgotten when chatting in person.
Its a good way to ensure they have your contact details even if they lost your card or CV. Employers and recruiters will speak to lots of people at an event, so it is a good way to stand out and remind them how keen you are. Even if no immediate opportunities are presented, you never know when your paths could cross again.