Networking is an effective career development tool that provides access to opportunities that may not be available through other career development methods. Networking is an effective way to keep up to date with industry trends, develop relationships, reveal promising business opportunities, and foster the development of skills and knowledge. Whether you are attending a formal or informal networking event, the following tips can help you maximise the positive benefits associated with networking.
Identify the people expected to attend an event and plan your networking strategy accordingly.
Although it is not always possible to identify who will be in attendance prior to an event, if the opportunity presents itself, it is worthwhile pursuing as promising networking opportunities may reveal themselves. This will assist in creating a networking strategy to inform who you specifically want to connect with. This will help cut through the clutter and make your networking more efficient. By not preparing, you may miss out on potential opportunities if you are unable to identify people of interest during the event. If you do not have the resources to identify who will be in attendance, ask people within your network to see if they have insight.
Be the one to initiate conversations.
Waiting for other people to come and talk to you at networking events limits your chance of connecting with new people and being exposed to opportunities. Of course, the idea of going up to strangers to engage in conversation can be quite intimidating. However, it is important to remind yourself that most people who attend networking events are genuinely interested in meeting new people and learning about them. Preparation also makes this easier, as it is more difficult to introduce yourself to someone who you know nothing about than it is with someone you have some basic insight on.
The Do’s and Dont’s of Networking
Have an elevator pitch ready.
When talking to new people, you are almost guaranteed to be asked some variant of the question “who are you and what do you do?” or the dreaded “tell me about yourself”. When put on the spot, it can be challenging to respond to these prompts in much detail. As such, many people either keep their answers brief and forgo important details or give extended responses that are not succinct. To avoid this, prepare a short ‘elevator pitch’ that includes the basic details of who you are and what you do. Be sure to also include your unique selling point. This may relate to skills you possess that are unique within your industry, your experiences, or any awards/accolades you have earned. Just be sure not to be too static or scripted in your delivery!
Make personal connections and ask questions.
Have you ever been stuck in a conversation with someone that has only been interested in talking about themselves? Keeping yourself as the focus of conversations is one of the quickest ways to disengage with people and limit your chances of developing long-lasting relationships. While it is important to talk about yourself so that others can get to know you, it is equally important to ask questions of others so they have the chance to do so as well. Not only will this improve their engagement in the conversation and opinion of you, but it is also an opportunity to learn about them, their experiences, and their knowledge, which may provide worthwhile insight.
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