How to network your way to success
Effective professional networking tips
In today’s connected world, networking is a career necessity – but it’s one that comes easily to some and not to others. Yet when done properly, business networking can make a massive difference to your career, often leading to new professional opportunities that you might otherwise have never been given.
When it comes to job opportunities, the old adage that ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ is often true – because people prefer to do business with those they know, like and trust. Quite simply, professional networking skills are some of the most effective and least expensive marketing methods you can learn to raise your profile and advance your career.
Here are our key business networking tips:
Business networking: your guide to success
- You’re always ‘on’
Business networking opportunities are everywhere. Whether you’re developing a great working relationship with the MD of one of your client contacts, raising your profile on LinkedIn or attending a work conference full of industry leaders and peers, remember that in almost every work situation you encounter, there’s an opportunity to make a good impression on someone who might be a great contact in the future.
- Relate, don’t promote
Good professional networking isn’t about selling. Instead, it’s about building relationships and creating friendships. At business networking events and conferences, ask lots of questions and most importantly, listen rather than talk too much about yourself. Find common ground and connect, and remember what’s being said so you can impress them with your powers of recall and observation later.
It also helps to prepare and practise a 10-second ‘elevator pitch’ that succinctly describes who you are and what you are seeking, should the right opportunity arise. Only give out a business card when it’s appropriate, to people who show a real interest in what you do.
- Follow up respectfully
After an initial meeting, follow up with your contacts with a ‘thank you and nice to connect’ message. Send them an article or other information they might find helpful. Make it a priority to follow up promptly so you’re fresh in their mind, and invite them to connect on LinkedIn or a similar industry networking platform. These methods can be highly effective for building your connections, ensuring any future approach is more warmly received.
- Ask for advice
One basic professional networking rule is to only ever ask for advice, not an actual job – and never pressure anyone to help you if they seem reluctant. Ask a contact if they could help you with any insights about a position, or their industry or organisation. Suggest possible introductions that could be made from both sides and volunteer your own insights and influence readily.
Remember that good business networking is a continual process, not a one-off event. Be proactive and consistent, and take the time to build valuable two-way connections that can pay off for both parties in the long run.