A recent estimation shows that up to 80% of all job openings are filled through networking. This emphasises the importance of developing this skill, however, it is something that most of us struggle with. Networking can be an awkward endeavour unlike anything else in life, it requires a certain amount of practice. Nevertheless, with the right attitude and these tips, we can teach you how to master this ability and critically improve your future career development!
What is networking?
Networking is a process by where you interact with others in order to build a long-term relationship based on mutual benefits. Good networking means getting to know people and maintaining your relationship which is advantageous for future opportunities. Networking can be personal and professional, with the lather mostly performed at work-related or other professional events.
Why you need networking
Networking is one of the key determinants of career prospects. At many occasions, a lot of job positions are ‘hidden’, meaning they are not advertised publically for applicants instead, they are being filled by applicants who already exist in the organisation or through networking. Having a wide range of networks critically elevates your chances of finding your preferred working position. It can also be beneficial for aspiring business founders, helping you to find investors and to raise capital.
How to network effectively
The first step of successful networking is to stick to conversional standards and ground rules. Although it is important to appear professional and chat about appropriate topics, you would still want to appear like a normal person – this also includes laughing or making jokes. Moreover, keep in mind not to overshare, but there really is no need to completely separate your personality from your working persona. As with every conversation, it is also crucial to maintain eye contact and show genuine interest in your conversational partner’s stories, after all, being a good talker also means being a good listener!
During the conversations, you will be able to quickly determine if the person could be of personal interest for you or not. Do not waste too much time on people who you are not likely to stay in contact with. However, you can start building a relationship with someone who you are interested in networking with the first time you meet. Usually, in the professional environment contact details are exchanged through business cards. Business cards should be kept clean and minimalistic – a touch of colour is often acceptable but should not distract from the information on it. In other cases, you can use Social Media for professional networking purposes, such as LinkedIn, to search for an important contact you missed exchanging details with. It should be kept in mind that social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are NOT professional and should not be used to connect unless agreed upon during a conversation!
As any other type of relationship, a professional network needs to be cultivated to be maintained. Set your focus on people you can benefit from, but who can also benefit from you. Someone who can provide value to the people in their network will quickly expand it – as a powerful resource, others may turn to them for advice or suggest their name to others.
Finally, it is crucial to remember any personal details the professionals provide you with, such as any upcoming event or a planned holiday. In case you are really struggling with your short-term memory, you can add any dates or details of the people you met and what you have learnt about them in an ‘event diary’ This will help prevent you from uncomfortable situations in the future and maintaining your network or getting in touch with new acquaintances. If they express interest in a certain topic you spoke about, this could be a basis for further communication, for instance by sharing an article in relation to the topic or a new study that could be discussed.
There are many more ways of improving your professional networking, but this is a summary of the points:
Keep conversations professional, but interesting
Don’t waste time on people who are irrelevant for you
Use an appropriate mean of sharing your contact details
Be a powerful resource to people
Remember personal details to use in future conversations