I have been invited to give a presentation to a group of students at the end of the month on the topic of Networking. Feedback from their lecturers suggests that there is a noticeable skill shortage, with many students not having the tools available to network effectively and as a result showing a lack of confidence.
Networking is an interpersonal skill that anyone can do if they are prepared to put the effort, time and energy in. Developing the skills such as networking will help one to get a job, keep it, get promoted and will last a lifetime.
I have compiled a list of top tips gained from my own experiences of networking:
1) Be prepared. The traditional term networking has gone through different definitions. Real networking can happen anywhere, anytime from all the people you meet. So always be polished and professional
2) Networking events. Do your research on the companies and people who are attending. This will give you talking points and will show them you have done your homework
3) Arrive early to an event. This has a number of obvious benefits but most importantly it gives you an opportunity to strike up alliances with other people who have arrived early and gets you warmed up, talking and in the right frame of mind to network
4) Prepare an introduction about yourself i.e. an “elevator pitch” that gets the conversation started and explains the who, what, when, where and why of your current situation
5) Be confident in your approach. Offer a firm handshake, maintain eye contact throughout, listen (aim to do 80% listening to 20% talking, this will give you time to think of the next question to ask and will make the other person feel important and engaged), ask open-ended questions and remember to smile
6) Remember people’s names. This can be tricky with a room full of new faces. A technique for remembering a lot of people’s names is to ask for their business card (this has the added value of creating more opportunities for open-end questions around the role that they do, etc) or if they do not have a business card make a note of their name, where they work and what they do, instead
7) Show an interest in the people that you meet. Ask them how they got into their business and what advice they would give you
Networking is all about building relationships and giving before you get. Think about what you could give back to them. Do you have any skills that could benefit their business or have you spoken to someone during the networking event that would be of interest to them
9) Ask people their preferred method of communication when you follow up. Always follow up with a thank you note when someone has spent time with you, given you advice or information or a recommendation
10) Keep in regular contact. Once you have established a new contact maintain that relationship through regular dialogue with content that is be relevant to your contact
I would be interested to hear your top tips when it comes to networking. What are your do’s and don’t's? What success stories have you had as a result of networking?
I look forward to you sharing your thoughts?