Building a successful career means mastering a range of skills across a variety of fields. But whatever role, function or industry you work in, perhaps one of the most important skills to master is networking. For most people, the classic image of networking involves standing in a room full of businesspeople, shaking hands and giving out business cards.
This traditional approach does still persist and can be very effective. But today there are also other types of networking, including virtual networking opportunities (for example via LinkedIn or private digital networks), social events such as business breakfasts, lunches and conferences, as well as fundraisers.The benefits of networking
When you become a good networker, you tap into a range of benefits. Networking is hugely beneficial for many types of businesses and professionals, but especially if you’re a new startup. One of the key tips for startup businesses is to not neglect networking and make sure you utilise contacts, both in-person and online.
- You make new contacts who may introduce you to their own contacts so that you build your network.
- You may find out about new job opportunities via the ‘hidden’ or informal jobs market
- You can build your own reputation within your industry by becoming someone that helps others.
- You may also find new potential partners, investors, suppliers and mentors; all of which can be vital as you travel along your career path.
When you become an effective networker, you harness a powerful tool for building your career. And the good news is that you don’t naturally need to be hugely outgoing or even that confident. By learning a few techniques, and preparing in advance, you can get a lot out of networking. Here are some useful top tips to use:1. Go to the right events
Most towns and cities have plenty of industry networking events, and it’s worth considering your chosen events carefully depending on your outcome. For example, there may be little point in networking with people from within your industry if you are looking for a funding partner. In this instance, you might want to attend specialist events. Conversely, if you are looking for a new role, you might want to attend an industry-specific event to meet potential recruiters from other firms.
If you are looking for customers, you might want to broaden your event choices to increase your chances of meeting new prospects and leads. Try business breakfasts, conferences, talks via local business groups and networks, online events, social evenings and other occasions to get a sense of how they all differ, and which may be right for you.2. Know why you are there – and be prepared
Always have an end goal in mind for your networking event and know why you are attending. Once you have settled on your objective, prepare accordingly with a strong elevator pitch that explains who you are, what you do and what you are looking for in just a minute or two. This gives you an intro when you meet someone new and gets the conversation flowing.
As part of your preparation, make sure you are ready to give a firm handshake and look someone in the eye. This builds rapport from the beginning and helps you to feel more confident. Remember to smile too – these events should be fun!3. Display your credentials
Whether you choose a classic hard-copy business card or a modern digital badge or v-card, it’s essential that you have checked and updated your details beforehand. A good business card, both print and digital, will link to your contact details and your online social presence. This means including details of your LinkedIn, website, any blog and possibly a digital version of your CV and cover letter, depending on your situation and goals. For example, if you’re in the financial industry, it is a good idea to show your CFA credentials where others can see them, such as on LinkedIn and on your resume. There are even digital badges that you can display on social media profiles.
It goes without saying that you need to ensure your materials are ready for sharing before you link to them. Be particularly thorough about reviewing your social accounts before you share them with a professional contact. Displaying your credentials is a key move when networking which can help other professionals discover you, your skills, and your expertise.4. Be prepared to help others
Networking isn’t just about finding others to help you. It’s vital to help others where you can, to build trusting, reciprocal relationships that deliver mutual benefits – and which build your reputation within your industry. If you can link someone with your own contact, provide advice, an introduction or another benefit, take the time to do so. Especially if you’re just a new startup business, networking will be hugely beneficial to you. But you might also want to consider how you could help others too, as this could get your name and brand out there to be seen and help you to build a strong professional network.5. Follow up
Good manners cost nothing and it’s a great practice to follow up with contacts that you have met at a networking event to say thank you for their time, reiterate your pleasure in making their acquaintance and suggest a coffee or similar, depending on your next steps. Be pleasant, friendly and open and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that may emerge.
With these tips, you can start to get more from your networking and enjoy the benefits of this fantastic career-building activity. Which tips will you try?
* This article was originally published here