Networking is such a woolly word. Does it just mean making lots of friends? Does it mean supping pink fizz at parties? Read our guide to networking like a pro…
The first rule of successful networking is to enjoy it. Nothing marks you out as a fake more than heading into a party, handful of business cards and heading straight for the most useful-looking person, all the while looking over their shoulder at who else could be helpful. Go to an event in order to have fun and you will network effortlessly.
Stop, look and listen
Where are you? Who are you with? Do you have anything in common with them? If so, great, strike up a conversation with someone who looks like they might be ripe for a chat. Feel like you have nothing in common with anyone? Equally great. Take a deep breath and use this to your advantage. “Excuse me, I don’t know anyone here and I was wondering if you could explain what’s happening” is enough of an ice-breaker.
Allow yourself to be networked
Don’t go anywhere with the intention of getting something from it. Remember that it’s a net, not a bunch of people who revolve around you. What can you offer someone else? Make yourself open to anyone who talks to you.
Play the long game
Just because you come away from a networking event with little more than a hangover don’t write it off. Everyone you meet will have made an impression on you, however big or small, and you will have made an impression on them. Just because they don’t call you the next day begging you to work with them, doesn’t mean they won’t mark you down for the future.
If you start a job and you’re not the person you claim to be on your CV, chances are you’d be fired. Think about the image you’re presenting. Are you pretending to be someone you want to be or are you accentuating your own attributes?
Always follow up
So you’ve chatted to the MD of a swanky organisation. You feel you’ve made a strong impression. They’ll immediately write you a gushy letter inviting you to join them, right? Wrong. Always follow up with a friendly email or coffee invite.
Where to do it?
You can network anywhere from a cafe to an aeroplane, but if you want a formal approach, many local organisations (try your local Chamber of Commerce) run dedicated networking events. PR companies host parties, theatres run meet-and-greets. Anywhere with a large amount of like-minded people is ripe…
Which brings us to Twitter
Twitter is the biggest network of them all. But be warned, says Manchester-based creative copywriter Charlie Hankers, “People who want you to follow them on Twitter without any interaction are like those you think you’re having a conversation with but aren’t actually listening. They see it as a way of getting their message out for free, but unless they’ve got something to offer beyond that, they’re essentially just spamming. Use Twitter to publicise yourself, but at least make an effort.”
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Image courtesy of Laughing Squid on Flickr.