Ten Tips for Networking For Career Success

Effective networking takes more than juggling a plate and a drink in one hand and making awkward small talk. To gain the most from our networking efforts, we need to ensure we gain what we need to from each interaction, whether it is a one-on-one meeting or group event. The key is to have a plan.

Networking is critical for professional success and vocational development, as well as even social progress. To do it well though, we need to recognise that, sometimes, research is a crucial element of successful networking; you need to make the most of fleeting interactions to develop relationships.
Below are a handful of tips you can utilise to get the most out of your networking opportunities and events:

1. Become a Sleuth
Before you attend any events, try to find out who else has registered to be there – or make educated guesses. Do a bit of online research (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google) to learn more about them and find common interests.

2. Identify what you want to get from the interaction
Do you want to know about what they do? Whether their employer is good to work for? What type of work is available in their organisation? Do they have any specific requirements of their employees? What specifically do they look for in new hires? Have an objective.

3. Do not ask for a job
Remember, networking is a reciprocal arrangement – and a research tool – not an opportunity to make premature requests of people. You’ll put people off by asking for a job – they’ll be embarrassed as they don’t have one to give – and will feel pressured or like your interaction wasn’t genuine. You’ll then likely miss an opportunity for further interaction. Remember, the main objective is to get the information you need to decide about your future. It may lead to a job (in the future) – but it will, in the interim, provide you with valuable information within with you can expand your professional network.

4. Have your pitch and value proposition ready
When you know your audience and your objective, you’ll know what you want to say. You may have a pitch and a value proposition, but you’ll need to tailor it for the situation. You don’t want to sound overly rehearsed, so write it in bullet points and practice, practice, practice. Ideally, it should be no more than 30 – 45 seconds and leave your audience with some questions, following which conversation can flow more naturally.

5. Have a few conversation starters ready to use
If you are not comfortable in meeting new people, you could think of putting together a series of conversation starters in your head. If all else fails, ask, “What do you do?” – people love to tell you what they’re up to – and the conversation will (hopefully) flow from there.

6. Be a good listener
We have all been granted the gift of two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion and you will learn more and develop stronger business relationships. You will be able to truly engage with others in the conversation as you will be listening for meaning and responding directly – rather than thinking about what you’ll say next.

7. Have confidence
An air of confidence never goes astray! Think of a networking event as an opportunity to meet new people and gain additional knowledge. People remember confidence and your smile; so use both to your advantage.

8. Request a meeting
Group networking meetings are great for introductions and to start a meaningful dialogue, by setting up individual meetings to have deeper discussions. Once you’ve identified that there may be some connection or mutual benefit, request a coffee chat and have a further conversation. But, be clear in your motivations – you’re not asking for a job or a date, merely an opportunity to research what you might want to do next.

9. Ask for the best method to connect
Suggest connecting via LinkedIn – or what might be the best way to stay in touch, if the person is so willing. Exchange business cards and include their details in your contacts. Send a meeting invitation via email, including your mobile number, so you know they have it, and that your meeting has been conditionally entered into their diary.

10. Follow-up
Follow-up is critical for each interaction. An email including something of value for them, as well as an expression of your gratitude for their time, is key to building relationships and networks. Include an article or piece of information that they may find useful following your meeting is a sure way of ensuring the relationship continues to be built.

Networking is an art form, of sorts. Have a clear idea of who you are, what you want and who your audience is, and make your approach accordingly.

Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – and signup to our regular blog at www.peopleedge.com.au/blog. If you want help with developing and implementing your networking strategy or think that your organisation could benefit from networking training, contact Jo Attard, PeopleEdge Coaching & Consulting, on 0418 438267 or joattard@peopleedge.com.au.