Whether you’re a social person or not and whether it is right up your street or your worst nightmare, networking is an essential tool if you want to be successful in most industries.
You may be really good at your job and an asset to your company and team, but it’s often a case of who you know as much as what you know. Contacts can be useful if you need information and resources, but how do you start off to then get to a stage where you are really “nailing” networking?
Even if you’re not the most confident person in the world you can start off small and then reach out. Start with people in your industry that you know. Touch base with them regularly and make sure that they remember you. Establish yourself as a useful person to know by helping them out if you’re ever in a position to. If you have relatives or old friends in your industry, it’s worth having a catch up when you can. Then you can start to expand you network.
Make the most of social
Social media is a good way of doing this. When you meet someone, even in passing, connect with them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter within the day while your name is still fresh in their head. LinkedIn will then suggest possible connections based on their connections, which is a good way to find new people. Social media is also a good way to contact people in the future with direct messaging, as well as share your news.
Think before you speak
Have a professional introduction pitch ready for when you do meet people. Introducing yourself by first name isn’t going to make you stand out, but a few practiced sentences saying who you are, what you do or where you study, and what you’re currently up to or why you’re there will give someone more of a reason to talk to and remember you. It will also prevent you from standing there awkwardly leaving them to find questions to ask you. A short introduction to yourself gives follow on questions for them to ask.
Make sure you’re ready to swap cards. Have a professional looking business card ready to give out. If the company you work for doesn’t make them or you are a freelancer, make your own. They don’t cost the earth and spend just a few pounds more for quality paper to make a good impression. Have them readily available without you having to fish through a bag. This will make them more likely to give you their card. Store it safely by filing it by who they are and why they might be useful instead of leaving it lying around to be thrown away.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to call them; that’s the point of networking! If you have their card and need their input or have something to offer them, give them a call. Remind them who you are – don’t forget they probably meet a lot of people and they might need a prompt on where they met you (it’s worth taking a note of this).
Networking might initially fill you with dread and if this is how you feel and you’ve been putting it off, start slow and it will gradually become easier. Soon you will have a useful network of people that will make your job easier and personally more successful.