Networking is a process of growing the number of people that will know you, with the goal of enhancing as many positive working or social relationships as possible. Particularly, networking will help when someone hears of, or can connect you to an opportunity.
Millions of opportunities are initiated or spread by word of mouth per year. Job opportunities, particularly for senior positions, often will be spread by word-of-mouth. Some won’t even be advertised. Those positions that are available often go to those that are known by the recruiters, or that have been recommended by someone.
Networking is particularly important for those working as freelancers or contractors. As if you are in this situation, your workload is not guaranteed. Therefore, it’s essential that you keep your network alive, so that you have the best chance of hearing about possible opportunities as they come up.
Objectives to hold in mind:
- Remember it’s important to give as well as receive to your network. Networking is a two-way street and it is a long-term relationship. In the short-term, it might be someone else you are helping, however by positively engaging with others, you are likely to increase the chance of opportunities coming your way.
- Networking is not selling. If you take a sales approach, you are at risk of alienating others or conveying a false, calculating purpose to a relationship (that you are in the relationship for what you can get out of it).
- Your first objective in networking, will be to get to know someone, perhaps by asking them whether they’d like to meet for a coffee.
How to network
Here are some steps you can take to advance your network:
For those who are working in a large organisation:
- Get a mentor
- Ask for advice from someone you don’t normally work with
- Volunteer to work in project outside your team
- Join social events, clubs etc
- Meet up with people for lunch
- Offer to help others
External networking ideas:
You’ll recognise some of these suggestions from my blog on personal branding.
- Maintain a LinkedIn profile
- Start a website
- By blogging – either your own site, or by contributing to others
- Create YouTube videos, podcasts etc
- Post relevant and regular updates to social media sites
- Write articles for journals, magazines, newspapers
- Speak at conferences
- Join and contribute to industry groups and associations
- Join and speak at networking events
- Volunteer for charities
- Alumni groups
- Nominate others/yourself for industry awards.
At a networking event
In an actual networking situation, think about how you want to present yourself. It’s good to think of an elevator pitch where you tell them what you do, what your skills are and what you are passionate about.
If you are looking for another job, a note of caution. Be careful of what you say to others, you might not want this to be well-known, so that it doesn’t get back to your current employer.
- Go over and introduce yourself to someone that is on their own. They will be delighted to have some company. You’ll also be able to get to know them on a one-to-one basis, which is easier than if they are in a group
- Actively listen to the needs of others
- Be sure to let people know how you would like them to help you. It may sound obvious, but sometimes people are so focused on the task at hand, that they forget to do this. The impact this might have is that they might even get the impression that you are so overloaded that you don’t have time to take on any extra business
- Keep your network current. Actively engage with it. If you haven’t been in contact with someone for over a year, then the relationship is probably dormant at best.
You might also be interested in the blog I wrote on personal branding. If you would like to know more about either of these subjects, or would like to discuss any aspect of career coaching, complete the ‘Contact’ form on the right.