Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
When you hear the word “networking” there is a tendency to get the “dreads”. But regardless of how you feel about it, networking is one of those essential life skills that you are going to need at some point, whether it is in a work or social situation. If you’re looking to secure a new role, build business contacts, meet new people – you’re going to need to develop some solid networking skills.
Here are our top tips for networking effectively – let’s start with professional networking:
- Be confident – or at least pretend you are!
Looking scared or shifty is not going to help you meet people. Remember everyone is in the same boat and they are most likely feeling nervous like you! Hold your head high and use eye contact to engage with people – and above all, don’t forget to smile!!
- Give and take
Think about the existing network you have, your skills and experience, your friends and what they do, your work and interests – chances are that you have something to offer someone else professionally (advice, another connection etc.). Remember that it’s not just about taking – do some giving as well! Networking can often be about building up a longer-term relationship and you never know who might be a useful connection in the future so be willing to invest a bit of yourself into the relationships even if you can’t see an immediate benefit to yourself.
- Be thoughtful
Start by talking about business but don’t let that be your whole conversation – the best business relationships grow and evolve from having some common ground and connecting with someone on a more personal level. Suggest to discuss business further another time and ask them about where they’ve been on holiday/what interests they have etc – without being creepy! A good way to keep track is to keep a spreadsheet of who you have met and when and include some high level information on them and their interests to help guide your future conversations.
- Break the ice
Introduce yourself and include a short sentence about why you’re at the event or what you do for a living. And on this note, you need to also think about how to end a conversation politely and move onto the next one – a good close could be “I won’t take up any more of your time but it was great to meet you and I look forward to connecting again soon”. Polite but firm is the key!
- Don’t be a sucker!
Don’t suck the life and knowledge out of the person you are meeting! At GTTG we have had plenty of experiences at networking events of being seized upon by people who then hammer you with questions until they have everything they could possibly need to know and then they go! Let me tell you. it’s exhausting for the person you are trying to connect with and you haven’t established a good connection! Give them the chance to ask you questions too!
- Follow up… but don’t be a stalker!
Becoming a pro at the initial networking is one thing, but it’s completely useless unless you actually build and grow a relationship from it. You could have met Bill Gates at the event and think “Oooh I’ve got myself a great contact there” but unless there’s follow up you will become just another person he has met.
Send a follow up email to each person you network with – keep it brief and say something like, “Hi xxx, this is xxx, we met yesterday at the xxx event and I was the one who works at xxx. I enjoyed discussing xxx with you and would be keen to set up a further meeting to discuss xxx further if you would be interested in doing so?”
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
When it comes to networking socially (think party time!) in some ways networking effectively can be harder. Let’s imagine your partner has brought you to a birthday party of one of their friends – you know no one except your partner. Resist the urge to stick by their side all night and instead get that networking face on – you never know who you might meet! Worst case scenario, you’ll have shown your partner that you can hold your own in a social situation and don’t need a babysitter.
Top tips for social networking:
- Ask your partner/friend/whoever you are at the event with to help introduce you to a few people at the beginning of the event if possible – you can then take it from there!
- Look friendly and approachable – again smiling and eye contact goes a long way!
- Don’t be over familiar – here at GTTG we have been known to go in for a hug on first meeting and been met with a surprised somewhat aghast face in return and needless to say have tried to extract ourselves as quickly as possible – note to self – not all people are huggers!
- Ask the person you are meeting questions – generally speaking people love to talk about themselves so ask them anything – you can go for a classic: “what do you do for work”, “where do you live”, “how do you know …” but if you’re with one of those people who doesn’t give you much in return, then try tapping into what they are interested in – ask them what they like to do outside of work/what their interests are, try prompting it by saying for example ” have you been watching x show” (try to stick to something in mainstream culture as a starting point!) or ” did you see the game last night?
- Be true to yourself – everyone is different and not everyone will get on well with each other, that is what makes us so fascinating – but always be polite!
Good luck! And above all, be authentic!