The thought of networking can send shivers down the spine of many, and rightly so. Not everyone finds walking into a room full of strangers easy, and why should they? However with the right approach networking can do wonders for your career and the chances are you are networking already without even realising it.
And networking is no longer purely about face-to-face events, technological advances mean that today more so than ever a lot of networking between professionals takes place online. But what’s the best approach?
Your online CV
Treat LinkedIn as your online CV and ensure you have detailed your skills and experience – the information that a prospective employer would be interested in seeing on your profile. Take advantage of the many Groups at your disposal and join as many relevant ones as possible.
And once you are a member contribute to discussions and questions from fellow members. The more visible you are the better, and remember that your network not only comprises of the people you have directly linked in with, but their acquaintances too.
Twitter - listen and engage
Twitter, perhaps previously seen as less professional than LinkedIn, is a vital tool for today’s professionals. Building up a good following and following like minded professionals can not only provide you with new contacts that may be able to offer you assistance in your career, but it can also alert you to new opportunities in your sector you may be interested in. However, if you are perhaps cautious of embarking on Twitter for the first time, it can also be an invaluable listening tool in the first instance.
There are plenty of platforms – free to use – that can let you see what people are saying without having to take part. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Twittereye , for example. And Twitter is a great way to find out about networking events coming up in your sector, so keep an eye out for future events where you can meet the people you network with in person.
Network in person
Despite the rise in social media platforms enabling networking to take place online, face-to-face networking is still very much alive. However, you don’t have to specifically attend networking events in order to network – opportunities arise all the time.
Whether it’s a business meeting, a conference, a course or even just a daily event like a train commute – there are always opportunities to meet interesting people. So bear this in mind the next time you meet someone new – you could be engaging with someone who could benefit your career, or vice versa.
Whatever the event, there are a few important points to keep in mind when it comes to networking. As obvious as it may sound – a smile, a firm handshake and making eye contact are musts. After all first impressions really do count. So too are business cards – always carry them around with you and make sure that not only are you giving yours out but that you are also receiving them from new faces. And ensure you follow up these new contacts with an email or through a LinkedIn invitation.
Make sure you remember that networking is a two way street – you might very well be looking to further your career but no one wants to engage with someone who is purely interested in their own goals. Offer your assistance wherever possible or suggest someone else that you are connected with who might be able to help them.
Following the golden rules of networking will see you well on your way to expanding your current network. And with a little practice it can be very enjoyable, and perhaps most importantly it can do wonders for your career. Always remember to stay upbeat, be friendly and persevere. And the saying ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ certainly rings true. Good luck.