What is networking?
When it comes to business, networking is where you create a ‘network’ of people, both personally and professionally, into a contact list whereby you can call on them when you require them. This could be for their expertise in a certain area, to help further your career or just for some general advice.
There’s no rule about who you can include within your network; it’s about who you want and who you think could be beneficial to you in order to help you grow in your work life. This could be:
These are just a handful – the list is endless – people who can help you to improve your career goals are everywhere and sometimes unexpected.
How can it be beneficial?
The obvious point is that it will help you in achieving your goals.
But there’s more to it than just that…
If you are starting out or you want to change from your current line of work then you’ll need to do your research. However, what you can find online can only take you so far. Those within this particular field will have the most up to date knowledge of what they are looking for in new candidates NOW, which will help in your preparation for interviews, giving you an edge above other people applying for the same role.
You may have not had the chance to get the experience needed to work within your chosen area of interest. Reaching out to new contacts gives you the ability to ask them about opportunities to visit their place of work to sit in on meetings or attend interviews as an observer to get a better idea of what the process would be like and also what an average day would be like. This then not only helps in improving your knowledge within this area but also in deciding if this truly is the career path you want to go down.
Advancing your career
When you attend networking events (in person or online) on a frequent basis, this means you have a higher chance of being noticed. When you do this, it conveys the idea to other people in the industry that you are willing to work hard to get to where you want to be. It will also aid in becoming more recognisable over time and, in turn, allow you to build up your reputation with what you have achieved since the last time you spoke.
(Note: Make a point of achieving at least one new thing from event to event to speak about).
With any job you go to, it’s always a good idea to have references that you can give details of. So, when you are leaving school, university or a job to find work somewhere then speak to those who have worked closest to you (e.g. teacher, professor, manager, supervisor, boss etc.) and ask if they would be willing to be a reference for you. If they say yes then get their details (i.e. name, contact information, job role title).
We would advise having at least one person that is a friend or a family member and at least one person that you know within a professional capacity. It just allows the interviewer to get an idea of who you are as a person and your skills in your life and within the workplace.
How do I network?
Like any skill, it takes a little bit of practice.
You can find events by searching online for any happening in the country. Though, if you don’t feel comfortable going to an event in person just yet then there is also the option of attending online events too!
Before you go…
Most people find their first experiences of networking to be a little daunting since they don’t know what to expect or what they themselves should do when they get here. If this is the case, then we would suggest bringing someone else along so you can be there for each other if you’re not confident enough to go on your own. It can often help make a situation feel more relaxed if you want to speak to one person by creating a group rather than just addressing them one-on-one.
Make a list of the type of people and companies you would be interested in working for so you know who to look out for once you get there. And, make a list of questions you could ask them just in case you can’t think of anything on the day. You’d rather get all the information you can rather than leaving and then suddenly remembering what you really wanted to ask.
Though, just remember, there are events all the time so even if you forget to ask something, you can always make a note of it to ask another time.
And, dress well—dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.
Once you arrive at event / When you first speak to someone…
The first hurdle(s) has been jumped: making contact with someone / attending an event.
The next step is choosing who to make a part of your network because, ultimately, you’re looking for someone who can help you but so are they. You need to be sure that you can both help each other out because no one wants to be taken advantage of by being the only one in the working relationship putting in any effort.
With this in mind, have this mini checklist to hand:
If yes, then great!
However, if they have any of the following traits then they may be best to be wary of and, possibly, to avoid:
Before you move onto the next person / leave the event…
Be sure to hand out business cards / details and get whoever your speaking with to do the same!
Making a request / asking a question:
Any good relationship needs to maintain contact but, the frequency of this can vary person to person. After the first initial meeting, the main thing to keep in mind is that the exchanges between you remains positive!
This can be as small as liking a post on their company page to show you are keeping up with them and supporting them in their business’ progression over time because there will come a time when you may like to ask them a question or a favour.
Assuming things remain positive between the two of you, you should:
1) Begin with a friendly opening (e.g. Hi [name], hope you are well)
2) Explain your purpose for getting in contact with them.
3) Ask them if they would be able to help.
4) Wait for a response.
5) When they do respond, make arrangements / plans (if necessary)
6) Thank them for their time (regardless of if they have been helpful)
7) Offer them help for any questions / requests in the future