In an interview with Rhonda Bennett, Head of IT business change at Pinsent Masons, we, Attune Flexible Jobs, asked her how she has worked flexibly for many years, as well as being promoted five times in a career that has spanned twenty years ensuring that working flexibly has never held her back …. When you
Do you hear the words networking and cringe or sink into your chair?
Well, you don’t have to. Networking is essential in all kinds of jobs and it is very likely you are doing it already. It’s mainly about getting to know your colleagues, clients, new business and building a relationship. It doesn’t just happen at work. It can happen anywhere, even, these days, online.
Increasingly networks are the way forward in helping candidates find their dream job and that could be developing links with recruitment companies, clients, past colleagues, friends etc. Networking is not about forcing your intent on to someone else or handing them a business card and then expecting them to get in contact with you – which happened to one of our team last week. These actions may be memorable but perhaps not for the right reason.
Here are top tips to hep you feel more comfortable when you’re networking:
- Research the event, person, meeting before you go. Find out a little about them if you can. Networking is about building a quick rapport – keep it informal, brief and interesting. Have a short ‘elevator pitch’ about what you do or if you are not working what you want to do. Come prepared.
- 51% of people feel anxious about not knowing anyone at an event and worried about introducing themselves to new people. You are not alone. But remember, you are all there for the same reason. Take a deep breath and walk up to a small group of people and ask if you can join them. Once you have got passed the initial introductions, talk about what interests you – which happened to us recently when we all shared tales about our travelling days. Talking about your interests can help you relax and appear more engaging. Work may be important but it’s easier to remember the guy who went travelling on a bike for six months.
- Networking is not just talking about yourself. It is about being interested in others (as above). Take an interest in the other person and how they got to where they are. Actually listen to their answers: imagine you might be quizzed afterwards. Don’t ask for a job outright – you’ll look desperate and you run the risk of your contact thinking you might just be using them. Show what you can do for them – can you introduce them to someone else or were you reading an article that might be of interest? The rule of reciprocation is powerful. At the same time, however, make sure you’re not the only one asking questions and get across succinctly what you do and what you’re hoping to do next.
- Many of us worry about how to exit a conversation. A good way to address it is to say, ‘It’s great to meet you but I better pop around and meet a few more people before the end of the evening or event,’ or, ‘I need to say hello to a few other people here, can we follow-up..?’ (but only make further plans if you do intend to contact them again). Then hand over that business card. You could also introduce them to another person you have met at the event. Likewise, you can ask if they know others that you could be introduced to that could further what you have been discussing.
- Bring your business cards and pass them on to those you want to follow up with and do it promptly. It is much easier to follow up straight after an event or meeting than weeks later. It is also a key way to make sure your networking makes a difference in the long run as you nurture those relationships. Find ways to keep in touch on a regular basis – sharing a relevant article, contact or career update.
- Be yourself and be authentic. Yes, you may have to make extra effort if you’re naturally introverted, but don’t let an introvert label get in the way either. Introverts can be adept at picking up on social cues and showing empathy that helps build the foundations for lasting relationships. But, whatever your nature, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
Remember, networking it a two way street. Get the above right, and you will discover that networking can truly reap long-term benefits in terms of your business relationships and career future.
Oh yes and remember to smile!