Networking is a vital part of getting into an industry. Connections you make with people and organisations can lead to career and learning opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you. Networking can feel like a nerve-wracking thing. So we’ve put together a few top tips to help you as you make connections in the working world.
- Think about who you would like to meet and why. Remember that, most likely, anyone you are interested in connecting with – no matter how senior – is likely to have something in common with you, even if that’s just your love of the industry. Don’t be afraid to share your hobbies in conversation too, as these can be unexpected points of connection.
- Where you are standing in the room can be important. Stand somewhere central, perhaps near the refreshments, rather than in a corner. Use queues to your advantage as it’s an easy reason to speak to the people behind and in front of you.
- Make eye contact and smile. People are unlikely to approach you for a conversation if your eyes are on the floor or in your phone, and your body language is particularly closed. So look around at the other attendees, and look open and welcoming. You might even catch eyes with someone who looks more nervous than you are and is also hoping someone will chat to them!
- Don’t be scared to join groups. Make sure the time is right, and that you don’t interrupt anyone speaking. Approach with a smile, listen and then contribute.
- Ask questions. Asking questions shows an interest and engagement in the topic of conversation, and is a jumping off point for further conversation.
- Listen. Once you’ve asked your question, really listen to their answer. Give them space to talk it through. Remember, lots of people enjoy talking about themselves!
- Follow up. If you meet someone at an event and you have a good conversation, connect with them on LinkedIn or send them an email. Tell them how nice it was to meet them. That way, you’re more likely to stick in their head and the connection doesn’t get forgotten. If you have a business card, make sure you give it to them so you can follow up. If you don’t bring a notebook with you to write their email down or make a note on your phone.
“But so much is still happening on zoom these days. How am I supposed make connections?” you might ask.
Everyone knows that it’s much harder to making last connections when you’re not communicating in person. So here are a few top tips for virtual networking:
- Arrive early for the call. Often events and meetings will start letting people in about five minutes before it actually starts. You might get the chance to speak to the organiser, and chat to a few other early attendees before everyone else arrives online.
- Have your camera on. It sounds simple, but so many people attend meetings and events with their cameras off. And it’s easy to get intimidated when you’re in the small percentage of people who have their cameras on. But whoever is leading the session is going to remember your face over the names they see attached to black boxes.
- Use the chat function when watching a webinar to ask intelligent questions and to show you are actively engaging in the session.
- Engage with your connections on LinkedIn, liking and commenting where appropriate.