Your guide to networking
Networking has a broad range of benefits; meeting new people, learning new things, and of course, finding a new job. It’s an essential part of life that you need to master, and the sooner it’s done, the better. Once you have things under control here, opportunities will crop up.
Consequently, here’s a detailed guide to networking to help you excel in the world of networking.
One of the main goals of networking is to interact with as many people as possible. These could be peers from your educational institution, work colleagues both past and present, or entrepreneurs or influencers you’ve taken an interest in. The more you engage with others the more impressive you appear, as it shows you’re taking an active interest in a range of people, topics and careers.
Before you go anywhere, dabble on the internet first. For example, websites such as LinkedIn can showcase your aptitude for career progression perfectly, helping you network with professionals and companies at the click of a button. Most employers you meet will search for a profile on you here, and they’ll request a connection if they’re interested in you. Signing up to LinkedIn will make any connections you create not only land, but stick too.
If you’re an eager undergraduate, you should attend campus careers events. Different representatives from multiple businesses will drop by and setup stalls for your engagement. Here you can converse with them in a one-on-one capacity to see what they’re looking for and what you can do. At the very least, you’ll walk away having learned something about the skills employers are after.
Should you already be employed, attend every office party and event you can. In all honesty, very few people go to these things for the fun factor, and many go to boost their careers. Perhaps they’ll get more time with a boss who is otherwise unavailable, or meet an executive from a different branch? Sign up to everything, show your face and get talking.
In a cheesy sort of way, every interaction is a networking opportunity. Most people have a job, or at the very least know someone in a job. Strike some bonds and build up friendships; you will find networking opportunities arriving organically.
What to wear
As in most situations, what you wear depends entirely on the context of your environment. Don’t assume that every networking opportunity requires a suit and tie; use your common sense and go from there.
A dress code may often be issued when your job or promotion search takes you to more formal settings. For an office party, enquire on the dress code if it’s not already listed in the email or invite. You may be required to show up in your work clothes, or perhaps they’ve specified something less formal. Do some digging around and the answers will come in those situations.
If you’re strolling into a campus careers event, a smart casual look is the best way to go. You should look like a student who has a life to get back to when it’s over, not an awkward teenager who is wearing a past prom outfit to every lecture so they look good for a 30 minute event later on. You’re not dressing for a job interview, and if business peoples get that impression from you, it’ll make them uncomfortable. The event is at university, so dress for university… just not too scruffy.
What to take with you
While you might have a degree of charm and interpersonal skills, you’ll need a few tangible things too. If you walk in to any networking event empty handed, it can spell disaster. Whether your hands are now free to fidget or you just look underprepared, it’s all bad news.
Take some essentials with you. Your CV and portfolio can be used to showcase your experience and work, a pen for jotting down contact information, and a bag or folder will be needed so you can store company manifestos and business cards. You’ll also just look more productive with stuff on you than looking a little bare or lost.
It may also be helpful to take along printouts. This can be useful for research you’ve conducted prior to any networking event, or if you need prompts for questions you thought up the night before. Any kind of document like this shows that you’ve made an effort. It will look a lot better than ‘umming’ and ‘erring’, and will give you some good talking points to spur on any conversation. More notably, you’ll also look prepared instead of staring at a smartphone during the event.
How to approach people
If your networking at an event or business party, there will be time for you to approach the people you want to; don’t rush around and don’t interupt people. Pick a moment when the person you want to talk to is free, and then approach respectfully.
Introduce yourself with a handshake, your name, and a polite smile. Most people just want to work with nice colleagues and aren’t always looking for someone to change their entire world. Sometimes, the best approach is the humble approach, and many people will appreciate this as you won’t be showboating, name dropping or wasting people’s time.
No matter the situation you’re in though, there will be conversation habits you should avoid at all costs. Make sure you’re paying attention so that your responses are relevant and progress the conversation. Be mindful of people’s time and be polite, and you shouldn’t have a problem. Good luck!
Here’s our blog on how to take the work out of networking.