Networking can be an effective way for building professional relationships for work, or when looking for a new job. Career experts say that some job openings are never advertised or publicly announced outside of a company, but at times are filled because of a referral by someone within the company. It helps to know people, and for them to know your skill sets and capabilities, and for this to happen you must network and meet people.
A former colleague of mine was made redundant and was unemployed for five months. He recently received several job offers all at once, from large banks and financial institutions, after he made a concerted effort to arrange informal coffee meetings with key decision makers or stakeholders from large companies. These people now knew of him, so when a job became available they didn’t need to call a recruiter or advertise, they all remembered him and called him up to offer him a job.
You need to actively go out and make your mark. When it comes to networking, some people may find the experience rather painful. A former manager of mine, who was a head of his department, confided to me that he used to dread going away for the company’s annual team-building weekends. He would order in room service, so as to avoid attending post-workshop dinners. He said the thought of having to make small talk with people he barely knew added to his anxiety. There he was – the head of a department who knew his field well – yet he was extremely shy.
This probably explains why some people at networking events leap into the habit of selling themselves and flogging their products before getting to know about the other person. It’s a fine balance to listen to people, but to also sell yourself and your brand. Then there are the people who work the room with confidence, effortlessly shaking hands with contacts and collecting many business cards and referrals.
Just how do they do it? Networking is often described as an act of building relationships that will prove beneficial to you in the future. It is about getting to know the people with whom you have made contact, building trust and nurturing those relationships over time. The key is to connect with a community; with this in mind here are some tips on how to network effectively.
Choose your events carefully
Always remember it’s about the quality, not the quantity, of the contacts you make, and choose events that suit your style, or a similar industry where you have a good chance of meeting like-minded individuals. An IT systems analyst wouldn’t go to food and beverage industry event for professional networking – unless she is interested in a carer change, of course!
Excellent listening is an effective way to network
When you listen, you get a chance to learn. If you give a person time to speak, then they are more likely to return the favour.
Know your profile
Be prepared to talk about your job, your skills, and a little about yourself, such as your interests, ambitions and goals.
Share your expertise and influence
Your willingness to give more than you get will demonstrate your competence and capability.
Allow time to recap post-event
In the day following the event, it is recommended that you get in touch with the people you met the day before. Approach this sensitively and remember politeness opens many doors. A quick email to say that you really enjoyed meeting them, and look forward to catching up again is a sure way to leave a lasting impression. Learning how to network effectively is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advance your career. You’re probably doing this right now, but make the most of your time by choosing the right events where you can be visible to the leaders in your field.
Don’t wait for a window of opportunity to open up, build your building with thousands of windows of opportunities.
This article first appeared on Women in the Black.
Tamia Gallego is the founder and director of Women in the Black.